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From Jewish Life

From Jewish Life

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Note: This set is a collection of previously released recordings.

It was apparently Rimsky-Korsakov, himself a member of the “Mighty Handful” of Russian nationalist composers, who encouraged his students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory to go out and collect Jewish folk music and music sung in the synagogues, getting thus the ball rolling for a specific Jewish classical music. The movement led in 1908 to the founding of the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music and, in 1923, of the Society for Jewish Music in Moscow. The success of the latter and its members was however, short-lived. The antisemitic, anti-cosmopolitan forces that started to brew under the new soviet regime led many potential members of the society to emigrate. The ones that remained were forced to focus on proletarian themes and, even when complying to the requirements, still found themselves often repressed or incarcerated outright.

The last notable concert with the society’s music in the Soviet Union took place in Moscow, in April of 1929. Most of this music had then lain dormant for decades until the pianist Jascha Nemtsov (himself the son of a Gulag survivor) and his musical collaborators unearthed it in the last few years of the 20th century. The present collection contains on five discs the recordings – many of them world premieres – realized between 1999 and 2004.


One of the real strengths of this program is the number of pieces that received their world premiere recordings here and it’s probably the case that many of them can still only be heard in these performances. I make it around 42 pieces in total – which includes the individual movements of suites and cycles – made their disc premieres here, a tribute to the industry, application and ardent appreciation shown principally by Nemtsov.

Fortunately, these discs make an appeal on recital-by-recital basis. Yes, there are generic settings and yes, nothing is developed extensively so that the pleasures here are of a localised, focused and specialised nature. Nemtsov may be disheartened by the relative obscurity of much of this music still, feeling it, perhaps, funnelled to the outlying ethnic borderland where folk, cabaret and lighter classical meet and mingle. He, however, in particular, and his disc confreres, have made a real contribution to the vivacious and continuing life of this music on disc and are deserving of high praise.

-- MusicWeb International

This is a fascinating five-disc collection that shines light on a short-lived movement in early 20th-century Russia to bring about a Jewish classical music idiom. Fine performances, too, from the likes of Tabea Zimmermann, Jascha Nemtsov, and Wolfgang Meyer.

-- BBC Music Magazine

SWR’s imaginative five-disc chamber collection From Jewish Life (recorded 1999-2004) should be of interest to listeners whether or not you’re religious or indeed of the Jewish faith. The excellent line-up of performers consists of Jascha Nemtsov (piano), Wolfgang Meyer (clarinet), Tabea Zimmermann (viola), Ingolf Turban (violin), David Geringas (cello) and Helene Schneiderman (mezzo-soprano). The chosen repertoire includes Bloch’s masterly Suite for viola and piano, Joseph Achron’s Stempenyu and other works, music by Julian and Alexander Krein, Alexander Weprik, Joachim Stutschewsky and Solomon Rosowsky and much more. This is, musically speaking, a most nourishing collection, and the digital sound is excellent. 

-- Gramophone

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Product Description:

  • Release Date: May 12, 2023

  • UPC: 747313943487

  • Catalog Number: SWR19434CD

  • Label: SWR Classic

  • Number of Discs: 5

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Grijory Krein, Israel Brandmann, Grzegorz Fitelberg, Jacob Weinberg, Boris Levenson, Julian Krein, Alexander Weprik, Mikhail Favianovich Gnesin, Grigorij Gamburg, Ernest Bloch, Joseph Achron, Joel Engel, Lazare Saminsky, Leo Zeitlin, Joachim Stutschewsky, Sinowi Feldman, Solomon Rosowsky, Pesach Lvov, Moshe Milner, Alexander Krein

  • Performer: Wolfgang Meyer, Jascha Nemtsov, Tabea Zimmermann, Ingolf Turban, David Geringas, Helene Schneidermann