DIAMOND: Ahava / Music for Prayer (Naxos Milken Archives: 8.559412)
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DAVID DIAMOND: AHAVA (BROTHERHOOD) and
WORKS by GOULD, HARRIS andMOORE
*MUSIC FOR PRAYER:
DAVID DIAMOND: Mizmor L'david - excerpts?á (1951)
MORTON GOULD: Hama'ariv Aravim?á 1947)
ROY HARRIS: Mi Khamokha?á (1946)
DOUGLAS MOORE: Vay'khulu ?á(1948)
Judaically inspired works by four leading 20th-century American composers born between 1893 and 1915 - David Diamond, Morton Gould, Roy Harris and Douglas Moore - are featured in their world-premiere recordings on this Milken Archive CD.?á Two of the four composers - Roy Harris and Douglas Moore - were not Jewish, and only David Diamond had a background in synagogue music and wrote Judaically related works from the outset of his career.?á All except Morton Gould studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, and all represent varying aspects of what may be considered mainstream 20th-century art music in this country.?á The works heard here are thus indicative of the symbiotic relationship between Jewish tradition and the world of serious cultivated American music as a whole.?á
Thisyear marks the 350th anniversary of American Jewry.?á David Diamond'sA?èava was commissioned 50years ago in 1954 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of thearrival of the first Jews in North America by a consortium representing numerousJewish-American organizations for performance as part of the extensivenationwide programs commemorating the anniversary.?á The official theme of thenine-month, multifaceted celebration in 1954, which included concerts,seminars, exhibitions, religious services, radio and television broadcasts andan address by President Eisenhower, was \Man's Opportunities andResponsibilities Under Freedom."?á It was perceived by Jews and non-Jews alikeas a universal vehicle for reaffirming American political, social, andspiritual values, and for reinforcing those democratic ideals held in common byall citizens, regardless of origin.?á The thrust of the commemoration was thusto highlight the mutually beneficial relationship between the Jews, who enjoyedunprecedented freedom to advance in this country, and American society as awhole, which benefited from the significant contributions made by members ofthe Jewish community well beyond parochial boundaries.
AsDavid Diamond developed the concept for this commissioned work, he realizedthat the story of Jewish life in America had broader ramifications, and couldserve as a metaphor for the pursuit of freedom, justice and opportunityeverywhere.?á In his own words, A?èava (Brotherhood)reflected "the big thing that I still believe should happen in this difficultworld of ours."?á The composer fashioned his text using various sources:biblical passages from Jeremiah, sayings of the sage, Hillel, historicaldocuments including the words of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, theprayer book of the American Reform movement, and the works of two great poetsof the "golden age" of Spanish Jewry.?á The resulting script is less about thefirst band of Jewish immigrants to New Amsterdam in 1654 and more closely tiedto utopian sentiments of brotherhood and social justice.?á It is also anexpression of gratitude for the remarkable opportunities enjoyed by Jews in the United States.?á Throughout the work, the narrative sections, which are setagainst a rich symphonic background, alternate with purely instrumentalpassages. A?èava is performed byGerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, noted for their recordingsof David Diamond's symphonies, with renowned theatrical personality TheodoreBikel as the narrator.
Anative of Rochester, New York, David Diamond studied at the Eastman School and with Roger Sessions before spending several years in Paris, where hebelonged to a circle of composers, writers and artists that included Ravel,Roussel, Milhaud, Joyce and Gide.?á His musical style evolved within atraditional structural and contrapuntal framework; while his language grewincreasingly chromatic, he firmly rejected atonality.?á In addition to 11symphonies, which were premiered under leading conductors, his oeuvre includesstring quartets and numerous vocal works based on poetic and dramatic literaryclassics.
The four additional works on this Milken Archive disc are scored for soloists, choir and organ, and were all commissioned as part of an ambitious annual program - "Liturgical Music by Contemporary Composers" - at New York's Park Avenue Synagogue, directed by Cantor David Putterman.?á This project encouraged both established and rising American composers, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to create a sophisticated body of music for use in the American synagogue by responding to the liturgical texts in their own individual musical styles without restrictions.?á The very first program, in 1943, included the Sabbath Evening Service by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, which was among the inaugural releases of the Milken Archive in September 2003.?á For more than a quarter century afterward, prominent composers including Leonard Bernstein, Robert Starer, Darius Milhaud, and Lukas Foss produced many of the most significant works in the literature of American synagogue music.
David Diamond's Sabbath service, Mizmor L'david, was commissioned in 1951 and reviewed by Harold C. Schoenberg of The New York Times, indicating the interest in these annual new music concerts beyond Jewish circles.?á Four prayer settings from this work are excerpted here.?á The other composers represented all worked outside the specifically Jewish liturgical realm.?á Each brought his particular stylistic and cultural orientation to his Park Avenue Synagogue commission: Morton Gould a fascination with popular American idioms; California - born Roy Harris an interest in folksong melodies and modalities, which he combined with European contrapuntal techniques; and Douglas Moore a propensity towards theater, opera and dance that impacted his expressive vocal lines.?á Harris and Moore were two of several non-Jewish composers who were commissioned by Cantor Putterman as part of his determination to broaden the field of Jewish liturgical music from both spiritual and musical perspectives.