VIENNA CHOIR BOYS: A Jewish Celebration in Song
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VIENNA CHOIR BOYS
VIENNA CHOIR BOYS
A JEWISH CELEBRATION IN SONG
SHOLOM KALIB:?á THE DAY OF REST (Excerpts)?á (1978)
ABRAHAM KAPLAN: PSALMS OF ABRAHAM?á (1980)
Bridging several decades, thousands of miles and distinct religious and cultural differences, this recording represents a unique artistic connection forged by the Milken Archive between a venerable European institution and Jewish music written for the children's choir of a Midwestern American synagogue.?á It features the Vienna Choir Boys, a venerable ensemble founded in 1498 and associated for more than five centuries with the Roman Catholic Hapsburg Imperial Chapel, singing two works originally commissioned by and written for the Beth Abraham Youth Chorale.?á Founded at a Dayton, Ohio congregation in the 1970s, the Solomon Schechter Award-winning Beth Abraham Youth Chorale is well known for commissioning new works of Jewish music, many of which are considered classics. This CD marks the very first time that the Vienna Choir Boys have recorded music of the American Jewish experience.
Both of these compositions, Shalom Kalib's The Day ofRest--a setting of prayers from the Sabbath liturgy--and Abraham Kaplan's Psalmsof Abraham, were originally scored for treble voices only.?á At thesuggestion of the Vienna Choir Boys, the Milken Archive commissioned the twocomposers to rework some of the settings in a four-part SATB configuration,combining boys' and adult men's voices with solo cantorial parts in the mediumtypical of virtually all Eastern European synagogue choral music that wastransplanted to America.?á On this disc, recorded in Vienna, the Choir Boys arejoined by the Chorus Viennensis, an adult ensemble of Choir Boys alumni;Naftali Herstik, Chief Cantor of the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem; Cantor ShimonCraimer; and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Gerald Wirth.
The recording fulfills several goals central to the MilkenArchive's mission.?á First, it encourages performances of Judaically relatedrepertoire.?á Since the recording sessions for this CD, the Vienna Choir Boyshave performed this music frequently and will sing selections from it on theirupcoming, 35-city United States tour from October through December 2004.?áFurther, this release revitalizes and brings to light specific areas of AmericanJewish music that might otherwise have been neglected, as illustrated by thework of Sholom Kalib, who has preserved in his own compositions the richEastern European synagogue music tradition that constitutes one of thesurviving legacies of a now vanished world.
Sholom Kalib's Day of Rest is a concert service thatincludes prayer settings from three sections of the Sabbath liturgy: Fridayevening, Saturday morning and Saturday evening.?á The six movements heard onthis recording reflect a variety of moods evoked by the texts: reflective andtranquil, joyful and triumphant, nostalgic and majestic.?á Musically, as MilkenArchive Artistic Director Neil Levin explains, this work \was intendeddeliberately to recall and incorporate cantorial idioms, melodic contours,modal practices and an overall emotional ambience of the Eastern Europeancantorial-choral tradition that developed in the Czarist and Hapsburg empiresfrom the 17th to the late 19th centuries." Certain characteristics of thattradition were transplanted in America by immigrant cantors and choirmasters,and are clearly evident in Kalib's sophisticated reinterpretation.?á Inaddition, Levin points out, one can also hear in certain passages of this workechoes of the grandiose and majestic style more commonly associated with themusic of the 19th-century western Ashkenazi--or "German"--synagogue, a stylegreatly influenced by Western classical music models and seen notably in theworks of Sulzer and Lewandowski.?á
Abraham Kaplan's Psalms of Abraham is a cantatacomprising original settings of 12 texts or excerpts from the Book of Psalms,scored for various combinations of cantorial soloist, choir and chamberorchestra.?á Discussing this work, the composer noted that the Psalms reflectthe contrasting emotions of joy and sadness, faith and insecurity that markhuman nature, and remarked that he sought to capture these qualities andutilize them as unifying themes throughout.?á The texts he chose include Psalm23 ("The Lord is my Shepherd"), Psalm 24 ("Lift up your gates"),Psalm 137 ("By the rivers of Babylon"), Psalm 121 ("I will lift my eyes to thehills"), and Psalm 150 ("Praise God in His sanctuary").
Both composers represented on this disc are alsodistinguished choral directors and arrangers.?á Sholom Kalib, who was achoirmaster at a major Chicago synagogue at the age of 14, has held severalcantorial posts, and is a noted Jewish music scholar who has embracedShenkerian analysis.?á He has especially championed the Eastern Europeancantorial and synagogue musical tradition, seeking to perpetuate it throughhistorical analysis and the creation of new works.?á Israeli-born choraldirector and conductor Abraham Kaplan, who studied at Aspen, Juilliard andTanglewood, has led numerous important premieres and recordings of works bycomposers including Robert Starer, Vincent Persichetti and George Rochberg.?áDirector of choral studies at Juilliard for 16 years, he prepared the School'schorus for the inaugural concert at Lincoln Center under Leonard Bernstein, withwhom he often collaborated in ensuing years.?á Kaplan has led his own choral andinstrumental ensembles and also served for more than 30 years as choraldirector of New York's Park Avenue Synagogue.