The Arty Semite

Nostalgia and Moderns on CD for Heritage Month

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
courtesy of

For background sounds to Jewish American Heritage Month, why not investigate some nostalgic treasures of Hebrew education from a half-century ago, available from Smithsonian Folkways, such as 1958’s “Israeli Children’s Songs” sung by New York native Miriam Ben-Ezra; or a charming 1955 lecture, “The Hebrew Language: Commentary and Readings” by Theodor Herzl Gaster, a UK-born scholar of religion and myth whose books Holy and the Profane: Evolution of Jewish Folkways and Festivals of the Jewish Year are still remembered fondly?

A different kind of nostalgia is provided by “Mosaic,” a CD from Solo Musica/Naxos by violinist Orsolya Korcsolan and pianist Judit Kertész, featuring beloved salon works including Josef Bonime’s Danse Hébraïque and Issay Dobrowen’s Mélodie Hébraïque. Similarly, on “The Hollywood Cello: Concert Works from Film composers of the Golden Era,” from Soundset Recordings, cellist Gregory Hamilton resonantly interprets works by Ernst Toch and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, among other Jewish composers who found refuge in 1930s California.

We feel excitement, not nostalgia, when familiar music is played majestically, such as on a newly transferred CD from Pristine Classical of the British Jewish violist Lionel Tertis anchoring a trio in a 1925 recording of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor. Comparably delightful is a newly recorded CD on Tudor Records of Mendelssohn’s Trio & Sonatas, performed by the outstanding violinist Ana Chumachenco and clarinetist Eduard Brunner.

A degree of nostalgia may be heard on a new Cpo Records release of Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s “Children’s Notebook,” played with astute innocence by the Russian-born pianist Elisaveta Blumina, although the extrovertedly urbane virtuosity of Weinberg’s Piano Quintet, newly recorded for Haenssler Classic by the German pianist Matthias Kirschnereit and the Szymanowski Quartet has a freshly sophisticated modernist sound. As indeed does the charmingly Gallic-influenced Petite Suite by Polish Jewish composer Alexandre Tansman, fleetly performed by Belgian pianist Eliane Reyes on Naxos Records.

While nostalgia may make for comfortable listening, the joys of genuine discoveries are more resonant, as in a release from Divox Records featuring a pensively questing piano trio by Eduard Steuermann, played by the Ravinia Trio. Steuermann was a friend and colleague of Arnold Schoenberg, whose 1899 string sextet “Transfigured Night” he arranged in 1932 for piano trio formation (also heard on the same CD). Steuermann was also a witty observer of the modern music scene, whose selected writings appeared from the University of Nebraska Press in 1989. Jewish American Heritage Month is enriched by this panoply of something old and something new for the CD collector.

Listen to pianist Elisaveta Blumina play an excerpt from Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s “Children’s Notebook.”

Listen to violinist Mischa Elman playing Bonime’s “Dance Hébraïque.”

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Theodor Herzl Gaster, Orsolya Korcsolan, Miriam Ben-Ezra, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Matthias Kirschnereit, Lionel Tertis, Judit Kertesz, Josef Bonime, Issay Dobrowen, Eduard Brunner, Eduard Steuermann, Arnold Schoenberg, Ana Chumachenco

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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.