Lang Zaimont studied piano at the Juilliard and composition
at Queen’s College with Hugo Weisgall and at Columbia University. She then travelled to Paris to study with André Jolivet.
She has become a distinguished teacher as well as garnering
a significant number of awards and fellowships.
recent works have included three symphonies, a chamber opera
for children, oratorios and cantatas as well as music on American
Indian themes. This disc surveys her Judaically-inspired music
from 1976 to 1997.
1976 Sacred Service for the Sabbath Evening was
commissioned by the Great Neck Choral Society (New
York) for the American Bicentennial celebrations. It is not
in fact a synagogue worship service but a concert work. Its
sixteen movements set texts of English prose or quasi-poetic
texts taken from the Union Prayerbook for Jewish Worship. Unlike
the better-known service settings by Bloch and Milhaud, which
have developed a concert life even though they were written
for the synagogue, Zaimont’s setting is based largely on texts
which fall outside the liturgy. Three choral numbers were extracted
from the service and have been performed widely in the context
of synagogue services.
disc contains six of the movements from the service, recorded
in April 2000 by Gerard Schwarz and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester
Berlin, with baritone solos sung by James Maddalena. The music
to be heard here is lively and tuneful and I would be interested
to hear the full work, however I am not sure whether there is
sufficient of interest for a non-Judaically-inclined listener.
A greater problem is the significant baritone solo; James Maddalena
is a fine singer but, as recorded here, his voice displays a
significant wobble which becomes rather intrusive.
from 1976, A Woman of Valour is written for mezzo-soprano
and string quartet and sets a selection of verses from the Book
of Proverbs. The poem is an ode to the ideal wife. It is an
intricate work and receives a strong performance from Margaret
Kohler and the Everest String Quartet.
1986 piece Parable: A Tale of Abram and Isaac is
based on the poem The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
by Wilfred Owen. In this, Owen uses the story of Abraham and
Isaac as a metaphor for the senseless barbarism of the First
World War. Owen adds a new twist to the end as Abraham refuses
the Angel’s suggestion to offer the Ram of Pride as an offering
to God and ‘slew his son, And half the seed of Europe, one by one’. Zaimont appends the Hebrew Kaddish to
the text to form a fitting conclusion.
is an altogether more powerful work than the Sacred Service.
Its language is tougher and more expressive, Zaimont was released
from the need to worry about not offending her audience. The
piece is written for an accompaniment of strings and harpsichord
and the resulting textures are lovely, the harpsichord contributing
a significant amount to the timbre of the piece. As with a number
of other 20th century works, in the right hands the
harpsichord can sound a very contemporary instrument.
Aler is the hard-working and mellifluously expressive tenor
soloist. But after the work’s powerful climax Zaimont introduces
a remarkable new element, it actually finishes with a powerful
coda in which a speaker says the Kaddish with tenor, chorus
and ensemble providing gentle accompaniment; a profoundly moving
experience. The work is also available in a version for chorus
and organ, a form that might be worth exploration by choral
disc concludes with the most recent work on the disc, Meditations
at the Time of the New Year. A two movement work which
sets a selection of texts drawn from various creative silent
meditations supplementing the Rosh Hashana liturgy in many Reform
synagogue services. The work is written for choir and soli with
a sparsely scored percussion accompaniment which features much
glockenspiels and chimes. Zaimont conjures some lovely textures
from her forces, but the piece sounds tricky. The Choral Society
of Southern California make rather heavy weather of it and their
choral sound is afflicted by wobble. Still, they give a moderately
creditable performance, sufficient to allow us to appreciate
with the other discs in this series, the CD booklet gives copious
information about the liturgical background to the text, so
much so that for these secular works I felt that you had to
dig a bit to find out the more secular and musical information.
obviously a composer whose work ought to be more available on
CD, but whether it does her justice to highlight her Jewish-themed
works, I am not really sure. Whilst the performances on this
disc are strong, I came away thinking that there was rather
more to Zaimont than was revealed on this disc.
by Glyn Pursglove