For most people, “Jewish music” implies klezmer, East European folk tunes, or liturgical compositions. But for over a century, Jewish composers have created art music based on a variety of Jewish themes. At a recent concert, reviewed by Barrymore Laurence Scherer, the Ariel Quartet performed some of the best examples from Israel in particular:
The program showcased three generations of Israeli composers, and featured works by Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984), Mark Kopytman (1929-2011), and Menachem Wiesenberg (b. 1950). Ben-Haim immigrated to Israel from Germany; Kopytman, from Soviet Ukraine. Mr. Wiesenberg is a sabra (an Israeli native). None of their rigorously modernist music displays the overt Yiddish sound of, say, the klezmer tune that enlivens the third movement of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, or even the deliberate Hebraic flavor of Bloch’s tone poem for cello and orchestra, Schelomo. But when you listen carefully, the music’s roots make themselves apparent.