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Leo Zeitlin: Chamber Music. Paula Eisenstein Baker and Robert S. Nelson, eds. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2009. lxxxiv+199 pp. ISBN 978-0-89579-645-5
Leo Zeitlin’s life and music became a subject of Paula Eisenstein Baker’s research about twenty years ago. Fascinated by Zeitlin’s masterpiece “Eli Zion” for cello and piano, Eisenstein Baker, a cellist with a keen interest in musicology, started to investigate the life and works of this remarkable, but almost unknown, composer. Her research has resulted in this publication of Zeitlin’s chamber music compositions, which is accompanied by a carefully reconstructed biography of the composer, a critical study of his works, and a comprehensive presentation of text settings from the vocal works in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian.
Music in Jewish Thought: Selected Writings, 1890–1920. Jonathan L. Friedmann, comp. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2008. 212 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-4439-7
The Value of Sacred Music: An Anthology of Essential Writings, 1801–1918. Jonathan L. Friedmann, comp. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2008. 186 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-4201-0
Although the study of Jewish music as a scholarly discipline is still comparatively recent, the publication of two anthologies of older musical thought highlights how the field has matured. The first work is a collection of essays written between the death of Salomon Sulzer (1804–1890), the cantor-composer “rejuvenator” of Ashkenazic synagogue music, and the emergence after World War I of Abraham Z. Idelsohn (1882–1938), the first academically recognized musicologist and ethnomusicologist of Jewish music. What Sulzer and Idelsohn shared in common, according to Friedmann, was a romantic notion of Judaism’s musical past. Just as Sulzer strove “to discover and present ‘purified’ [Ashkenazic] Jewish music” (8), so Idelsohn sought “to uncover unifying elements contained in the music of all Jewish communities, no matter how disparate” (15). The achievements of both engendered a sense of pride in the continuity of Judaism’s religious and cultural past and the Jewish people’s place in the post-Emancipation present.
Judaism Musical and Unmusical. Michael P. Steinberg. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. 270 pp. ISBN 978-0-2267-7195-3
In Judaism Musical and Unmusical, Michael P. Steinberg takes the reader on a journey through predominantly but not exclusively Central European Jewish history and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at times privileging music as a focal point of cultural discourse. The eight essays in this volume, most of which have been published before, are loosely connected musings about the different facets of modernity and Judentum, and involve the concepts of memory, secularity, and aesthetics, among others. In each chapter Steinberg weaves different threads together, from art to psychoanalysis, from architecture to music. Steinberg’s book, which in a larger sense is a discourse about identity and Judaism, begins with an essay on Edward Said and his propositions of Jewish identity, and follows with individual case studies of known intellectuals and their work. Steinberg traces the subject of Judaism in Sigmund Freud’s late classic Moses and Monotheism and in the writings of Henry James, Eduard Fuchs, and Walter Benjamin; and he explores the intellectualism of Italian Jewish historian Arnaldo Momigliano. Further chapters center on the artist Charlotte Salomon and her Life? or Theater? and Leonard Bernstein in Vienna. The journey ends in Berlin with a critique of its Jewish Museum and an assessment of some recent scholarship on German Jewish subjects, which cannot compensate for the absence of a full bibliography at the end of the book.
Perspectives on Jewish Music, a collection of five essays addressing music in contemporary Jewish culture and personal Jewish history, is edited by Jonathan L. Friedmann, a cantor, string player, and author. In his introduction, Friedmann describes music as a tool of cultural preservation and emphasizes the role of music performance in defining Jewish personal and group identities throughout the Diaspora. Because of the many different contexts and conditions of Jewish life in the twentieth century, music has played a variety of roles and reflects a broad diversity of influences. This multiplicity of Jewish musical experiences is reflected in the disparate subjects of the book’s chapters.