The December 2019 issue of Choral Journal is now available online. Below is an excerpt of the article “Great Choral Classics You’ve Never Heard Of” by Joshua R. Jacobson. You can read it in its entirety online at acda.org/choraljournal. Click “Search Archives” and choose December 2019 from the dropdown menu.
There are hundreds of attractive but largely unknown nineteenth-century sacred choral masterworks from Vienna, Berlin, Paris, London, and Odessa. Some have organ accompaniment, some are unaccompanied.
These pieces are w ell written and fall within an accessible classic-romantic idiom, within the reach of a good high school or college or community chorus. So why are they relatively unknown? They were composed not for churches but for the grand synagogues of these European capitals. Since they were out of the mainstream, these works and their composers are not to be found in the textbooks of music history or choral literature.
In most cases, the only time they appear on the programs of school choirs or community choruses is for a special multicultural concert. Most of these pieces sound remarkably like the music composed for their neighboring churches; they lack distinguishing “ethnic” modes or rhythms. These musicians were determined to acculturate—to frame Jewish liturgy in the language of the dominant classic-romantic idiom.
Who are these composers, and where can we hear and see their music? The “mighty handful” of nineteenth-century synagogue music are Salomon Sulzer (1804–1890) in Vienna, Julius Mombach (1813–1880) in London, Samuel Naumbourg (1817–1880) in Paris, Louis Lewandowski (1821–1894) in Berlin, and David Nowakowsky (1848–1921) in Odessa. Many of their original publications are available on the web and in twentieth-century user-friendly octavos. A listing is provided at the end of the article. This repertoire need not remain the sole possession of synagogue choirs or Jewish community choruses; it should find a welcome place in the regular programming of school, college, community and even some church choirs.
Listen to Lewandowski’s Halleluyoh (Psalm 150): https://youtu.be/oXf7To0fhT8
Listen to Lewandowski’s Enosh: https://youtu.be/-6EJnEHcaOA
Listen to Lewandowski’s Ewiger: https://youtu.be/-6EJnEHcaOA?t=277
Listen to Sulzer’s “Psalm 111”: https://youtu.be/_E15-1bJbVA
Listen to Schubert’s Tov Lehodos (Psalm 92): https://youtu.be/05_k_jDO2kI
Listen to Naumbourg’s Se’u She’orim (Psalm 24): https://youtu.be/K-6gPDJ6qlk?t=2956
Listen to Halévy’s Min Ha-metsar: https://youtu.be/IueEanZ5Low
Listen to Mombach’s Hallelujah: https://youtu.be/CZUIi6k5f-4?t=677
Listen to Nowakowsky’s Adonoy Zekhoronu: https://youtu.be/K-6gPDJ6qlk?t=3489
Read the rest of this article (and more!) in the December 2019 issue of Choral Journal, available online at acda.org.