Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Max Bruch - Kol Nidrei video

Kol Nidre (All Vows) is the traditional music played on the eve of the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. This piece features Jacqueline du Pré (cello), Gerald Moore (piano), Ray Jesson (organ),Osian Ellis (harp), and John Williams (guitar). The writings, visual arts, and photography in this presentation are the creations of Matthew Schwartz.


Bruch completed the composition in Liverpool before it was first published in Berlin in 1881. It is styled as an Adagio on 2 Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra with Harp and consists of a series of variations on two main themes of Jewish origin. The first theme, which also lends the piece its title, comes from the Kol Nidre prayer which is recited during the evening service on Yom Kippur.

In Bruch's setting of the melody, the cello imitates the rhapsodical voice of the hazzan who chants the liturgy in the synagogue. The second subject of the piece is quoted from the middle section of Isaac Nathan's arrangement of "O Weep for those that wept on Babel's stream", a lyric which was penned by Byron in a collection called Hebrew Melodies (which also included the famous poem "She Walks in Beauty").

Bruch was a Protestant and first became acquainted with the Kol Nidre melody when his teacher Ferdinand Hiller introduced him to the Lichtenstein family, the head of which served as the cantor-in-chief of Berlin. Cantor Abraham Jacob Lichtenstein was known to have cordial relations with many Christian musicians and supported Bruch's interest in Jewish folk music.

While some commentators have criticized the dearth of Jewish sentiment in Bruch's concert-hall Kol Nidrei, it must be remembered that Bruch never presumed to write Jewish music. He only wished to incorporate Jewish inspirations into his own compositions.

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