Tuesday, January 27, 2015

TheEpochTimes.com: Pergament’s “The Jewish Song:” A Holocaust Memorial [James DePreist Conducted this Recording in 1974]

James DePreist (1936-2013) 
is featured at AfriClassical.com
(Photo: Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

Moses Pergament: The Jewish Song (Den judiska sången). Birgit Nordin (soprano), Sven-Olof Eliasson (tenor), Stockholm Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, James DePreist (conductor). Original recording made February 2nd and 8th, 1974. (Caprice CAP 21834). Total Time: 75'43.

Classical Voice North America (Photos and captions of Moses Pergament, above and below)

"Moses Pergament’s music has been blessed by an inheritance from two cultures – the Jewish and the Nordic.” Lars Silén

January 26, 2015

By Barry Bassis

The reissue on CD of Moses Pergament’s “The Jewish Song” (“Den Judiska Sang”) on Caprice brings to light a work that has musical and historical significance. Composed in 1944, near the end of World War II, the large-scale composition (for soloists, choir and orchestra) is described by its composer (in a statement contained in the liner notes) as a “choral symphony.” It is a cry of pain in the aftermath of the Holocaust and is unfortunately still timely with the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, including the Scandinavian countries.

Moses Pergament (1893-1977) was born to a Jewish family in Finland. At the time his father (who came from Lithuania) settled there, the country didn’t allow Jewish immigration. An exception was given for those who served in the Tsar’s army in Finland. Pergament grew up speaking Yiddish and Swedish. He studied music in St. Petersburg and settled in Sweden in 1915, where he continued to compose but became known primarily as a music critic and journalist. He was not elected to the Association of Swedish Composers until 1945, supposedly because, as a Jew from Finland, he was not considered Swedish enough.

This 1974 recording is the only one ever made of “The Jewish Song.” James DePreist (1936 — 2013) conducted the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with soprano Birgit Nordin, tenor Sven-Olaf Eliasson, and the Stockholm Philharmonic Choir.

The work is set to poems by Ragnar Josephson (1891 — 1966), who was not only a poet but also an art historian and theater director.


The performance is deeply moving, with stellar work by the orchestra, choir and soloists. “The Jewish Song” has been compared to Mahler’s “Song of the Earth.” It also bears a resemblance to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No 13 in B flat minor (“Babi Yar”), another musical reminder of Nazi atrocities.

The CD booklet contains translations of the texts along with an essay by Lars Silen about the piece and the composer. There is also a note by Pergament, who states that the work is intended to express “an infinite feeling of belonging, even in the midst of great suffering.”

The recording is also a testament to James DePreist, one of the first African-American conductors to have an international career. He was the nephew of the eminent contralto Marian Anderson. DePreist overcame the disability of polio, which he contracted in his twenties. In addition to conducting, he published two books of poetry and received numerous honors, including the National Medal of Arts.

Comment by email:
Jim Svedja, KUSC Classical Radio 91.5 FM, www.kusc.org  Evening Host, reviewed this recording in the current issue of Fanfare.  John  [John Malveaux]

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