Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hebrew Melodies for Sabbath and High Holidays

Music always played respectable role in Judaism. It took its place in everyday prayers, Torah readings and vocalizations, sounded in shofar callings during last month of the year, in holidays singing, in Shabbat zemirot and nigunim. The whole Diaspora music was strictly connected with religion and knowledge, establishing tradition strong enough to lead people across centuries of dispersion. In history of Hungarian Diaspora cultural heritage played special role. Following the history of central Europe, Hungary was shaped as a multicultural country. After Kingdom of Hungary became in 1867 a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, tolerance and liberality was the only way to maintain the society. 
The 19th century Hungary was home for widespread Jewish life. Rabbis created a vivid movement of yeshivas, blossomed with moral tractates and halakhic studies. On the other side some people wanted to adjust rituals in agreement with modern views which in Hungary lead to Neolog Judaism which was orientation close to American Conservative Judaism but with using of Hungarian language in some parts of synagogue service. In 1845 rabbi Leopold Löw published his first sermon in Hungarian. Orthodox rabbis opposed against reforms. In effect of break-up and disagreement some rabbis incline to necessary reforms that gave Modern Orthodox Judaism and some, mainly in cities induce deeper changes. After 1868 the Jewish society was enough open to give place for various orientations from Ultra Orthodox and Modern Orthodox to Reformed Judaism. And what is interesting, Hungary was the country where Hassidism movement haven’t been opposed by rabbis. 

Hebrew Melodies for Sabbath and High Holidays

Beautiful musical setting of praying services were esteemed by many non-Jewish citizens. They were coming for holidays just to listen cantorial singing, sometimes even without understanding the meaning of the prayers. Hungarian Jews had a chance to remain in connection with tradition and part acculturation seemed the best way to multicultural society. This situation gave Jewish life in Austro-Hungarian Empire better position than in vast majority of European countries. This situation gave culture as a whole and for music in peculiarity, a chance to resist, even after Holocaust. 
Affirmation of its vitality can be set of Sabbath and Holidays Melodies recorded in 1977 by main Hungarian label Hungaroton (SLPX 18018). Some of them are traditional melodies basing on ancient neginot (vocalizations of Torah readings) some are melodies from 19th and 20th century. Some composers we know by name, among them Dunayevsky (Veshamru), Jakab Gottschal (Psalm 93.), Jósef Weismann of Eszék (Voal yode avadekha) and Salomon Sulzer (Uv’shophar gadol). Some are Hassidic traditional tunes, like stirring El male rahamim presented in form it was sung for hundreds of thousands martyrs of Cossacks in Ukraine during Khmelnytsky uprising 1648-1657. 
Interesting example of lively Hasidic tradition is Hamavdil,  four part choral suite based on Hasidic melodies performed in 1941 in Debrecen by Berta Konstantinova, an artist of former Yiddish Theatre in Lodz. Author of choir setting was Emil Ádám, a choirmaster who was also author of many arrangements and conductor of Goldmark Choir. Solo voices are tenor Árpád Kishegi, baritone Rezsö Feleki, cantor and author of Mi shebarakh, sopranos Zsuzsa Kéval and Anikó Fisher. Some melodies are accompanied by organ by György Kármán. This recording was success and three years later, in 1980 it was republished by Fidelio label in Netherlands.

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