By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO — Eighteen segments are featured in Alan Oren’s remarkable documentary about the Kol Nidre prayer, “Eighteen Voices Sing Kol Nidre, Secrets of a Sacred Chant.” Not all are musical voices. There are the Chassidic Rabbi telling a Kol Nidre tale by the Baal Shem Tov, and Neil Levin, from the Milkin Foundation, pontificating about the sources of Jewish music . There are two holocaust survivors recounting incidents where the Kol Nidre lifted their dejected spirits while at a labor camp and in Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Most beautiful are the various renditions of Kol Nidre, first by Angela Buchdahl, senior cantor at the Central Synagogue in Manhattan, then by Al Jolson in the first talking movie, The Jazz Singer, and later, by Cantor Raphael Frieder of Temple Israel in Great Neck, New York. In addition, Israeli Cellist, Amir Eldon, once the youngest member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, plays the first part of Max Bruch’s setting of the chant. Max Bruch, the son of a Christian clergyman, learned the Kol Nidre melody through his friendship with Berlin’s Cantor Abraham Jacob Lichtenstein. Snippets of other arrangements are heard or mentioned, from Perry Como and Johnny Mathis to Electric Prunes and Memuga Beach Surf Music.
Like an eighteen square quilt, with each piece having the same border, the Kol Nidre melody unifies the interesting narrative.
Oren, currently a professor of journalism at Pace University, is the son of a rabbi. .He is the former Entertainment Editor for USA Today. Other documentaries he has written include the Emmy award-winning “History of Madison Square Garden.”
While visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., he was awed by the power of Kol Nidre on a Shoah survivor. That experience motivated him to create this inspiring documentary.
During this high holiday season, Public Broadcast stations are airing the documentary in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, and Denver. Unfortunately, San Diego’s PBS station did not select it. Perhaps we can influence our local station to air it next year.
Wingard is a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and a freelance writer
By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO–Bridge Records, a new label, has produced some adventurous recordings. In 2007, the company introduced a collection of songs by Sefan Wolpe (1902-1972), an unheralded genius whose lyrics were in German, Yiddish, Hebrew and English.
There followed other Wolpe albums such as a children’s puppet show tale, Lazy Andy Ant. Additional Bridge recordings include the live 1947 Carnegie Hall recital of Nadia Reisenberg
the brilliant Israeli pianist.
A recent release is the complete music for cello and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven performed by Laurence Lesser, cello and Haesun Paik, piano.
Lesser, a protege of the great Gregor Piatigorsky, currently heads the Cello Department of the New England Conservatory and has had a formidable career as a solo and chamber music performer as well as being a distinguished educator.
One could not ask for a more capable pianist for Beethoven’s music than the South Korean native, HaeSun Paik. Not only were the runs articulated like strings of pearls, but her carefully calibrated dynamics shaped the phrases into beautifully expressive entities. Since earlier works were titled for “piano and cello,” where Beethoven himself would perform the piano part, it is essential that these sonatas have the service of fine solo-ability pianists.
Lesser played his 1622 Amati cello with noble sound and beautiful musicality. The opening Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Oratorio Judas Maccabeus displayed Lesser’s fine lyrical qualities.
In the Sonatas in A Major, C Major and D Major, he demonstrated dramatic passion. Particularly impressive was the final fugue of the D major sonata, performed with exultant mastery by both musicians. These cello sonatas by Beethoven helped elevate the cello to its current importance as a solo instrument.
This complete collection of Beethoven’s cello works is a “must have” for all lovers of string music.
Wingard, a former violinist with the San Diego Symphony, is a freelance music reviewer based in San Diego.
By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO — Despite the cool evening, nearly 1000 people gathered at Allied Gardens Park last July 11 to hear the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra (TICO), conducted by David Amos, in its annual “Summer Pops Concert on the Green.”
Sponsored by the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club, the event was enhanced by sophisticated sound equipment, colored light play, and a program designed to satisfy a gamut of tastes.
New this year was “Prisoner of Azkaban” from the Harry Potter movies’ musical score. It was undoubtedly recognized by the younger set. Richard Rodgers’ “Victory at Sea” showcased concertmaster Juanita Cummins’ in a well-executed square dance solo. The first trumpet passages were beautifully rendered by Ronald Miller. Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March #4” catered to classical taste, while “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” with dramatic narration, appealed to the baseball fans. Familiar marches by Sousa and others kept feet tapping.
Jay Wilson, a civic leader whose generosity helped ensured the concert’s taking place, conducted Sousa’s “El Capitan March,” and Don Brennan, a leader in bringing about Mission Trails Visitors’ Center, conducted Sousa’s “Fairest of the Fair.” They were each awarded TICO’s golden baton (gold colored).
During the Armed Forces Medley, those who had served were asked to stand when the music for their branch of service was played. It was impressive to see the large number of men, many advanced in age, who fought for our country.
The concert concluded with a sprightly “Stars and Stripes Forever.” The brass and the three-member flute section on piccolos, stood for their respective solos. The audience departed marching and humming to the beat.
Food, including baked potatoes, was sold during the intermission. There were children on the playground, swinging to the music. Many families brought picnic dinners which they spread out on blankets.
I attended with three generations of the Bendelstein Family. Sylvia Bendelstein is the new chair of the JCC’s Jewish Music Series Committee on which David Amos serves. She was there with her husband, a radiologist at Kaiser Hospital, her elder daughter, who is working for her teaching credential, and her mother-in-law, who was visiting from Australia. We all enjoyed the music, the informal atmosphere, and the feeling of community which such events inspire.
Wingard is a freelance writer and retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra
By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO –Violinist Asi Matathias and pianist Victor Stanislavsky presented an exciting recital on June 17 at the Dove Library in Carlsbad. This concert was part of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture’s Music Series and was underwritten by the Leichtag Foundation.
The two young Israeli artists shared their formidable talents in works by Vitali, Franck, Grieg, Bloch and Sarasate. The Franck Sonata, a favorite of violinists, was performed with keen attention to nuances.
Matathias, who possesses a marvelous bow arm, brought out the lyricism and melodic flow of the five movements. Stanislavsky, whose piano part is even more challenging than that of the violin, played with great sensitivity and dynamic control.
The Grieg Sonata shone with virtuosity. Both artists contributed to the dramatic impact of the work. Bloch’s Nigun was given a warm interpretation, eschewing the powerful force some violinists bring to the work for a more introspective spirituality.
The piece where Matathias revealed his highest level of artistry was his encore, Romance Andalusia by Pablo Sarasate. This work had all the subtle rhythmic variety, tonal suavity and iridescent tone quality required to evoke the beauty of that Spanish province where Moors, Christians and Jews once lived together peacefully during a Medieval Golden Age. The Romance could not have had a more convincing interpretation. Perhaps, because Matathias’s father is from Greece, and many Greek Jews were originally from Spain, the violinist probably has Sephardic ancestors and therefore, his special affinity for this music.
Currently, Stanislavsky is the pianist for Yoav Talmi’s conducting classes at the Buchmann-Mehta School at Tel Aviv University and Matithias is studying with Pinchas Zukerman at the Manhattan School of Music. Both are America-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship winners. With these mentors and this kind of support, with an abundance of talent and friendly, outgoing personalities, both violinist and pianist are surely on their way to important careers.
Violinist Matathias can be heard again in this area on August 5 in a private home in Rancho Santa Fe. For information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Wingard is a freelance writer and a retired violinist with the San Diego Symphony
By Eileen Wingard
SAN DIEGO–One of the greatest musical joys is listening to fine chamber music in the intimate setting of a private home. The living room of Lee and David Amos’ lovely Alvarado Estate provided just such a setting for a recital by violinist Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Kanae Matsumoto.
Some forty guests, including patrons and musicians of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra (TICO), attended the May 23 recital benefiting the orchestra. The audience listened to sonatas by Claude Debussy, Gabriel Pierne, Maurice Ravel and the Baal Shem Suite by Ernest Bloch.
The Ravel Sonata was particularly impressive. The second movement, Blues: Moderato had just the right feel of jazzy improvisation, while the final Perpetuum Mobile: Allegro accelerated to an exciting climax.
The Pierne, a seldom-heard favorite of the violinist, received a sympathetic reading, and the Baal Shem Suite, especially the Nigun, was projected with dramatic boldness.
The opening work, Debussy’s Sonata, the last composition by the composer, was actually taught to the artist by the violinist who debuted the work with the composer himself.
Israelievitch’s introductory comments about each selection created a relaxed informality to the afternoon, and delicious refreshments served afterwards, allowed the guests to mingle with the artists.
The high level of artistry confirmed Israelievitch’s reputation, named Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished contribution to the performing arts in Canada. A French native who graduated from the Paris Conservatory at sixteen, Israelievitch served as concertmaster of the Toranto Symphony Orchestra for two decades. Before that, he held posts as concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and assistant concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Currently, the internationally renowned violinist is chair of strings at the Chautauqua Institute and a faculty member at York University in Toronto.
Pianist Kanae Matsumoto is on the faculty of UCLA. A native of Japan, she earned her Masters and Doctoral degrees at UCLA. Her fine accompaniments enhanced the performance.
Sixteen days after the benefit recital, TICO gave a concert at Tifereth Israel Synagogue. The ambitious program included Brahms’ Third Symphony, Brahms’ Academic Overture and Arnold Rosner’s world premiere of “From the Diaries of Adam Czerniakow” for narrator and orchestra.
The viola soloist needed to be replaced, the concertmaster was indisposed, a first violinist was delivering a baby, and Rabbi Rosenthal was absent from the second violin section. TICO conductor David Amos had more than his usual share of personnel problems. However, the show did go on.
With an impressive narrator , celebrated San Diego actor Jonathan Dunn-Rankin, Arnold Rossner’s work left a deep impact. The chillingly tragic narration had fitting music, opening with foreboding sounds from the trombone and bassoon.
It was apparent that the orchestra was well rehearsed for the Rosner premiere and the musicians performed with dedication and understanding.
The Brahms Symphony fared less well, especially the first movement. The Tragic Overture, however, had much to be admired, especially in the woodwinds. With only two rehearsals, the TICO forces did a remarkable job.
July 11, TICO will perform its annual Pops program at Allied Gardens Recreation Center Park. Last year, 1500 attended, picnicking on the lawn to listen to the 7:00 pm concert. This year ‘s program will include music by Sousa and scores from Harry Potter and The Sound of Music.
Music columnist Wingard is a retired violinist of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra