Friday, February 3, 2017

Salamone Rossi’s ‘Songs of Solomon’

Sacred Hebrew Music

Source: Youtube

The Kuhn Chamber Soloists and Symposium Musicum, under the direction of Pavel Kühn [1938–2003], perform songs from Salamone Rossi’s Songs of Solomon. This is part of a two-CD set, which was released by Panton of the Czech Republic in 1995. It was recorded at Martinek-Studio in Prague, March 24–26 (nos. 1-19), and May 3 and 5, 1994 (nos. 20-33).

Salomone Rossi [1570–1630] was a Jewish violinist and composer employed as concertmaster in the Italian court of Mantua from 1587 to 1628. This collection of Jewish liturgical music—(השירים אשר לשלמה) Ha-shirim asher li-Shlomo, The Songs of Solomon—was published later in life, in 1623. What is unique about this sacred music is that it is performed entirely in the Baroque tradition with no known connection to cantorial tradition and that the biblical “Song of Solomon” does not appear at all in the musical lyrics.

Even so, Marsha B. Edelman, Professor of Music and Education at Gratz College (Melrose Park, Pennsylvania), writes that Rossi did so with the approval of Rabbi Leon (Judah Aryeh) Modena:
Rossi’s great claim to Jewish musical fame came with his publication in 1623 of Ha-Shirim Asher li-Shelomo, a collection of 33 Psalms, hymns, and other liturgical poems set for combinations of from three to eight voices and intended for use on festive synagogue occasions. In publishing these works, Rossi relied heavily on the endorsement of his friend Rabbi Leon (Judah Aryeh) Modena. Modena (1571-1648) had issued a responsum [a rabbinic ruling] in 1605 that, after years of prohibition, provided halakhically [legally] derived approval for the performance of choral works in the synagogue. Modena’s own choir at his synagogue in Ferrara seems to have established a precedent. But how did the music sound?
Beautiful and uplifting, elevating you to a place of numinousness and transcendence, which should not surprise you given that Rossi has been called the spiritual descendant of King David; and yet his contribution to Jewish music was not acknowledged or imitated after his death. Perhaps, it was too much against established and accepted conventions; perhaps Rossi was a man ahead of his time. Were it not for the fortunate discovery of his partbooks in the 19th century, we might not be enjoying Rossi’s  interpretation of sacred Jewish music today. It would take until the second half of the 20th century before his music would be performed in Reform synagogues.

Some Excerpts:
1-1: Qadish
1-3: Bar’ku
1-7: Q’dusha (Keter)
1-8: Elohim Hashivenu
1-12 Shir hamma’alot, ashrei kol y’re adonai
1-16: Qadish: version 2

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