The Arty Semite

Warm Sounds of Summer CD Roundup

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia

As summer approaches with its memories of squalling kiddie camp performances, a dollop of sung sarcasm may seem timely. Fortunately, “The Tom Lehrer Collection” CD/DVD set now appears from Shout! Factory, featuring the veteran mathematician and song satirist in compositions like “I’m spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica.”

For more serious listening, Hänssler Classic has just released a historical recording of the 1951 Piano Sonata, a work of solid integrity by the underrated Swiss Jewish composer Rolf Liebermann. In addition, the valiant CD reprint website offers a collection of historic performances by noted pianist Leon Fleisher and the splendid West Coast violinist Eudice Shapiro, playing works by the romantic American modernist Leon Kirchner.

The latter CD, originally released by Bridge Records, joins a brand new Bridge CD of exquisite performances by the mighty Jewish American pianist Peter Serkin, son of the equally admirable Rudolf Serkin, in the seductive “Bagatelles” and “Piano Quintet” by Jonathan Lieberson, son of the late UK-born Jewish recording executive, Goddard Lieberson.

Jazz lovers will delight this summer in the new CD from EMI by the Kibbutz Cabri-born bassist and singer Avishai Cohen, not to be confused with Israeli jazz trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Peaceful coexistence between two jazzmen named Avishai Cohen suggests a model of estival cooperation from which we all can learn.

Another collaborative ideal occurs when classical superstars rejoice unpretentiously in playing music like Mendelssohn’s Piano Trios No. 1 and 2 from Sony Classical, as do Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Itzhak Perlman. If your summer lacks grandiose vigor, Mahler’s 8th Symphony from the Canadian CD reissue company Immortal Performances is passionately led by Dimitri Mitropoulos without the overstatement of the more flamboyant, albeit wildly popular, versions by Leonard Bernstein. Maestro Bernstein also leads a schmaltzy version of Ernest Bloch’s “Schlemo-Hebrew Rhapsody” on a new reissue from EMI Classics, but the same set contains more unvarnished verity in Bloch’s 1933 “Sacred Service (Avodath Hakodesh),” led by the gifted Greek-born Jewish conductor Maurice Abravanel.

Wonderful interpreters can appropriate for their own use even the most unlikely works, and the outstanding Israeli-born pianist Saar Ahuvia’s brilliant duo with Stephanie Ho adds convincingly spiritual Yiddishkeit to even the arch-Catholic music by reactionary Frenchman Olivier Messiaen on a new CD, “Visions,” a must-hear for all piano fans.

Listen to Saar Ahuvia and Stephanie Ho perform the jaunty “Toccatina” by Jay Anthony Gach, whose Jewish-inspired works include “Eli, Eli,” a tribute to Hannah Szenes:

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tom Lehrer, Peter Serkin, CD Roundup

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.