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Solomon ROSOWSKY (1878-1962)
Chamber Music and Yiddish Songs
Rhapsodie: Récitatif et Danse Hassidique for cello and piano (1934) [5:54]
An der Wiege for violin and piano (1924) [4:21]
Fantastic Dance, Op. 6 for violin, cello and piano [10:00]
Lomir zikh iberbetn (1914) [1:31]
A viglid, Op. 4, No. 2 [5:06]
Ikh bin a bal-agole (1914) [1:08]
Three Pieces, Op. 8 [15:32]
Viglid No. 2 (‘Ale-lule’) for voice and piano [4:47]
Suite from ‘Jacob and Rachel’ for voice, piano four hands, flute and percussion (1927) [16:11]
Sari Gruber (soprano)
Rachel Calloway (mezzo-soprano)
Musicians of the Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival
rec. 2011/12, Rodef Shalom Congregation; Kresge Recital Hall, Carnegie Mellon University
Texts and translations included

Toccata’s ‘Russian Jewish Composers’ series has included the figures of Joel Engel, Joachim Stutschewsky and Leo Zeitlin and the fourth volume in this unfolding series now scrutinises the music of Solomon Rosowsky. One of the founding members of the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St Petersburg he was a scholar as well as profound exponent of Jewish folklore, but the chamber music and songs in this selection reveal some liberating influences and some vivid compositions. They range in date from just before the First World War to the mid-1930s.

The cantorial impulse behind much of his music is clear – he was, in fact, the son of an admired cantor – and that can be heard in Rhapsodie for cello and piano, a piece based on a dance tune he heard in Jerusalem. The Hassidic dance that forms the second part is full of drive and terpsichorean virtuosity. The Klezmer influence permeates An der Wiege, a slow and expressive piece for violin written a decade earlier, whilst the Fantastic Dance, for piano trio, offers a ten-minute exploration of the rhapsodic and dance-based imperatives that form so indelible a part of his compositions, Chagall-like moments of whimsy included.

The Three Yiddish songs show contrasting elements at work; the folkloric arranger, certainly, but also one who absorbs and reveals a more experimental approach to the métier in A viglid. The question of Rosowky’s experimentation continues in the three pieces that form his Op.8. The Society for Jewish Folk Music had never published wind music before this set in which he wrote specifically for oboe, cor anglais, flute, clarinet and bassoons in varying combinations. The central piece, Nigun on a sof, is perhaps his most nostalgic, antique-leaning piece, whilst the last of the three is a chattering and droll Hassidic affair as its name, Moshe der shuster, probably implies. It too sports cadences that reach back in time, earth-rooted.

The Suite from Jacob and Rachel, for voice, flute, percussion and piano four hands dates from 1927. This Zionist work was a Biblical Hebrew translation of a Russian play, and the music combines a range of Middle-Eastern influences, that include both Jewish chant motifs and Arabic elements. The production wasn’t a success among the critics, but its intended working-class audience liked it much more. The suite gathers together music from Acts 2 and 3 – in all a five-movement suite gathered from the complete 18 scenes. There are quick dances for flute and a melismatic song – the only song preserved in the suite - sung by mezzo Rachel Calloway (Leah’s Lament) which is followed by a convincingly agile Brothers’ Entertainment.

Production values here are dedicated, from the documentation the recording and performances, and ensure the continuing value of this release and the series in general.

Jonathan Woolf


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