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Edith Gerson-Kiwi

revised by Israel J. Katz

(b Filzburg, nr Libau [now Liepāja, Latvia], June 11, 1882; d Johannesburg, Aug 15, 1938). Jewish cantor and musicologist of Russian birth. Raised in a traditional German Jewish environment, he trained as a cantor in Libau; he also studied briefly at Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) where he met Eduard Birnbaum. Later he studied at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin and at the conservatory and university in Leipzig; his claim to have studied at both institutions with Kretzschmar (history), Zöllner (composition) and Jadassohn (harmony) remains unsubstantiated. He served as cantor at the Adat Jeshurun congregation, Leipzig (1902). From 1903 to 1905 he was a cantor at Regensburg and then after a year in Johannesburg he was persuaded by the president of the Zionist movement, David Wolffsohn, to emigrate to Jerusalem, where he lived from 1906 to 1921. These were decisive years for Idelsohn's research into the diverse musical traditions of the Sephardi and ‘Oriental’ Jewish communities and Muslim and Christian sects. Although his plans in ...

Article

Don Harrán

( b Venice, 1571; d Venice, 1648). Italian rabbi, cantor and scholar . He was a cantor in the Scuola italiana (Italian synagogue), Venice, from 1607 until his death. He appears to have introduced some form of polyphony, probably improvised, into the synagogue at Ferrara in 1604. Erudite in Jewish and humanist studies, Modena composed more than 40 writings, on subjects as diverse as Hebrew language and grammar, lexicography, Jewish rites and customs, Kabbalah, alchemy and gambling, as well as various plays, prefaces and rabbinical authorizations, translations, editions, almost 400 poems, and a highly personal autobiography. Music occupied a central place in his life and thought. Among his extended responses to questions put to him in his capacity as a religious authority, he wrote two essays on music, specifically polyphony: the first (1605) legitimizes its use in Jewish prayer services and celebrations, as well as for study; the second (from later years) addresses the issue of whether it is permitted to repeat the name of God (in a single voice or between voices)....

Article

Don Harrán

(b c1530; d 1590). Rabbi and exegete . Music is treated at length in his sermon Higayon be-khinor (‘Strummings/Meditations on the Lyre’; ed. and Ger. trans. H. Schmueli, Tel Aviv, 1953), the first of 52 sermons in the collection Nefutsot yehudah (‘Judah's Dispersions’; Venice, 1589). In accordance with his belief that the origins of arts and sciences lie in ancient Israel, Moscato traces the beginnings of music to Jubal (not Pythagoras), recognizes the first ‘human’ musician as Moses (not Orpheus), explains the Hebrew origins of musical terms (‘music’ from mezeg, mixture or mood) and finds Hebrew prototypes for musica mundana, or the harmony of the spheres. The main theme pursued in a number of variations is ‘harmony’, which Moscato conceives in cosmic and musical terms. He implies that, in music, ‘harmony’ exists apart from the mode of its composition or realization: thus, by implication, harmony comprises monophony and polyphony, composed and improvised music, vocal and instrumental practices (‘and they will sing to the Lord with a lyre, with a lyre and a singing voice’). Since harmony is perfection, and perfection is consonance, Moscato develops the idea of the octave in its musical and spiritual applications: the octave as a perfect interval is paralleled by the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Simḥat Torah), marking the end of the annual reading of the Torah and its renewal; the study of Torah is the eighth science (beyond the ...

Article

(b 1542; d Mantua, 1612). Italian Jewish physician and writer on Hebrew antiquities. He discussed music, at great length, in his final work Shil ṭei ha-gibborim (‘Shields of Heroes’; Mantua, 1612), in which he glorified the ancient Temple, its architecture, its liturgy and its music. Ten of the 90 chapters are devoted to music. Portaleone conceived the music of the Levites after Italian Renaissance practices and humanist music theory: thus the discussion turns on polyphony, lute tablatures, contemporary instruments (in analogy to ancient ones, which are described in considerable detail), modes, the doctrine of ethos, simple and compound intervals and the differentiation between consonance and dissonance. He maintained that music in the Temple was a learned art, acquired after a rigorous course of training; it was notated, thus meant to be preserved; its performance was based on written sources. Portaleone acknowledged Judah Moscato as his teacher, although he noted that they conceived music differently: whereas Moscato spoke, generally, of number, harmony and ‘science’, treating music for its cosmological and spiritual connotations, his pupil was concerned with ...