The Arty Semite

Monday Music: 'Jewish Voices' in Prayer

By Rebecca Schischa

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy of Tiberii Management

Nina Beilina, a violinist and professor at Mannes College The New School for Music, describes herself as a traditional, if not a religious Jew. It was when she was branded a “Yid” on the streets of Russia that she first felt really Jewish. “I was brought up by my parents to be cosmopolitan, international; then the Stalin era came and anti-Semitism was blooming. I turned to being nationalistic, not international. I was proud to be Jewish,” she said.

Beilina left Russia with her son in 1977. Yet, “as soon as I crossed the border, I was furious because suddenly I became a ‘Russian’!” she exclaimed. “I would say, ‘Why are you calling me Russian? I’m Jewish. I have Jewish blood!’”

On March 28 Beilina will be presenting a concert of “Jewish Voices” at Manhattan’s Congregation Ansche Chesed, featuring Bachanalia, a group of 16 musicians she leads, and the world premiere of “The Breath of All Life — Meditations on two Jewish Prayers,” a composition by Cantor Natasha Hirschhorn.

“‘Jewish Voices’ was my dream; we’ve been thinking about doing a Jewish program for over a year. It was a long process,” said Beilina, whose collaboration — she avoids the word “orchestra” as Bachanalia musicians perform without a conductor — is now in its 24th season. The program will also include a Bach concerto — a must for every Bachanalia performance; Arnold Schoenberg’s 1947 composition “A Survivor from Warsaw”; Shostakovich’s 1949 cycle “From Jewish Folk Poetry”; and Ernest Bloch’s 1923 “Nigun” from “Baal Shem Suite: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life.”

“A Survivor from Warsaw,” Schoenberg’s composition based on the diary of a survivor, is a “very complicated piece” Beilina said, incorporating a narrator (for this concert it is Beilina’s son, Emil Chudnovsky, who is also a musician), an orchestra and a singer. While the English and German narration goes on, the orchestra also describes the story, with the last few phrases sung in Hebrew. “Three languages in eight minutes!” Beilina said.

Hirschhorn’s “Meditation,” a composition for string orchestra and cello, is based on two prayers, “The Breath of All Life” (“Nishmat Kol Chay”) and “Praise” (“Hal’lu”). “I was lucky to find Hazan Natasha. I’m in love with this piece,” Beilina said. “It’s very melodic, a deep thought. You really have to meditate as you listen.”

While “Jewish Voices” is taking place at a synagogue, Beilina, who has performed in many different venues around the world, is quick to say that “I don’t mind where I play; I can play in a synagogue or a church. What I care about is that people will listen to the music, be in touch with the music.”

“You don’t just play music,” she added. “You have to tell the audience something about human life.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rebecca Schischa, Nina Beilina, Natasha Hirschhorn, Classical Music, Bachanalia, Music

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!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "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.
  • 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.