Twentieth-Century Composers Inspired By Jewish Culture: Selections from the Solo and Collaborative Piano Repertoire
Slingland, Susan Marie
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Throughout the twentieth-century, many composers of both Jewish and non-Jewish descent found inspiration in the heritage of the Jewish people. The rise of nationalism and increased study of folk melodies and rhythms led to the exploration of the riches of Jewish music. The musicological premise of nationalism in music is that every nation has a unique history and therefore must have its own individualistic musical tradition. Due to the Diaspora, Jewish folksongs come in many different flavors but still convey the basic communal expression of their common struggle for existence, religion and culture. This is musical nationalism in the broadest possible sense. The dispersion of the Jewish people is reflected in the wide range of cultures into which they were assimilated: Slavic Eastern Europe, the Middle East (in particular, Israel), as well as the sephardic tradition of the Mediterranean regions and, of course, the melting pot of America. The composers featured in this performance dissertation project reflect that diversity. In many cases, composers drew upon the exoticism of Jewish music and re-interpreted it to pay homage to their own rich culture or to highlight the tragic history of the Jewish people in the first half of the twentieth-century. The works considered for this topic are influenced by both sacred and secular melodies. These selections all include piano, whether it be art song, chamber music or solo repertoire. The amount of music that could be included within the topic's parameters far exceeds the amount of available performance time. Therefore, the three recitals given merely represent a portion of possible works. Given Shostakovich's fascination as a non-Jew with Jewish topics, one entire recital was devoted to his works. The other selections were grouped to form one vocal recital and one purely instrumental recital. The three recitals took place on February 27, 2004, October 27, 2004, and January 6, 2006 in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall of the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Maryland. Recordings of these recitals may be obtained in person or online from the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library of the University of Maryland, College Park.