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Jessica Duchen
Friday 10th September 2010
Seasonal Stuff, Sort Of

A little round-up of matters appropriate to the encroaching season...

First, tomorrow is of course the Last Night of the Proms. Renee Fleming will be centre stage and here is my interview with her which is out in today's Independent. I have to add that when I met her she wasn't yet aware that she would be singing Rule Britannia! I guess she is now. 

Today the Kings Place Festival is in full swing - 100 concerts in 4 days! I will be spending this afternoon there listening to Mikhail Rudy playing a lot of yummy Russian music including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Stravinsky's Petrouchka in his own transcription and wonderful cello sonatas with Alexander Ivashkin. Three sets, kick-off of first one at 2.30pm.

Meanwhile, Shana Tova - happy Jewish new year. A fascinating piece by viola player and broadcaster Miles Hoffman in the NY Times's Op-Ed asks where the liturgical music by the great Jewish composers has got to. The short answer is that those who are now most celebrated had to convert in order to receive any recognition in 19th-century central Europe - Mahler to Catholicism, Mendelssohn to the Lutheran church. Even Schoenberg converted, though I understand that later he converted back again.

Korngold, though, did not. And he did write some Jewish religious pieces. Not a huge number, but they exist, so here is the one sample that is currently available on Youtube - huge thanks to Brendan Carroll for the upload. Unfortunately it's totally the wrong time of year, but it's the thought that counts...

This is the German premiere, from 2003, of Korngold's Passover Pslam, which he wrote in California in 1941 to a commission from Rabbi Jacob Sonderling, who adapted the text for it from the Haggadah. The words are especially poignant given that this was in the middle of the Second World War - click through to Youtube to see them. Emily Magee is the soprano soloist and the Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is conducted by Marcello Viotti.

As you'll gather from the interview above, Renee Fleming adores Korngold and will be singing some more soon: she told me that she is working on the Abschiedlieder. Cheers! 

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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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