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Anatoly 
Kaplan: Cradle song
Anatoly Kaplan: Cradle song


Purim-Musicians, wood-cut, Amsterdam 1723
Purim musicians, wood-cut, Amsterdam 1723


Playing the shofar, Holzstich, Amsterdam 1723
Playing the Shofar, wood-cut, Amsterdam 1723


The Second Temple in Jerusalem, wood-cut from the 19th century
The Second Temple in Jerusalem, wood-cut from the 19th century

What is Jewish music?

Just like other cultural nations Jews have both traditional and art music.

Jewish traditional music is well known: Yiddish and Sephardic songs and especially the Klezmer, this unique instrumental folklore of the Eastern European Jews.

However the oldest and most authentic part of the Jewish musical tradition is the music of the synagogue. It is based on motives that are probably two and a half thousand years old - they were sung in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Even today texts from the Holy Script are performed using these motives, the so-called tropes.

Due to various misconceptions, on the other hand, the very existence of Jewish art music is called into question.

For example at one time works by composers of Jewish origin like Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer or Mahler were considered "Jewish music". It was supposed that the ethnic descent of the composer in some way influenced his works. But there are no specific Jewish stylistic characteristics in the works of - most assimilated and baptized - Jewish composers of the 19th century.

Only at the beginning of the 20th century did Jewish composers show interest in the roots of Jewish music. The center of the Jewish national movement in music was Russia. This movement was part of a Jewish cultural Renaissance, which also supported the spreading of Zionist ideas.

A new national consciousness pervaded the Russian-Jewish cultural climate of the period in which the New Jewish School developed. For the first time in music history, this school created a Jewish style, which integrated elements of Eastern Jewish folklore and liturgical music into musical art.

Anatoly Kaplan: 
Papa brought me a new fiddle from the market
Anatoly Kaplan: Papa brought me a new fiddle from the market


Klezmer-Musicians in Galizien, 1912
Klezmer-Musicians in Galicia, 1912


Singing in the synagogue, miniature, 14th century
Singing in the synagogue, miniature, 14th century


Synagogue in St.Petersburg, photo 1910
Synagogue in St.Petersburg, photo 1910


© 24.12.2008 by Jascha Nemtsov. e-mail: feedback@musica-judaica.com