Spring 2010 Concert

The Biava Quartet with mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa and pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski
An Evening of French Jewish Music

© Carol Pratt
  • Terrace Theater
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Washington, D.C.
  • April 29th, 2010

Concert Summary

Pro Musica Hebraica presented the acclaimed Biava String Quartet returning with a new special concert devoted to the world of French Jewish music. Together with special guests mezzo-soprano Margaret Mezzacappa and pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski, they performed rare classics and newly discovered masterpieces, including several American premieres from the elusive 19th-century legend, Charles-Valentin Alkan. These works, recovered from manuscripts in the Geneva Conservatory and arranged for voice and strings, presented a forgotten chapter in the history of Jewish classical music, with stunningly lyrical, Chopinesque settings of Hebrew hymns and the 41st Psalm in the spirit of French Romanticism.

The concert also highlighted the music of Darius Milhaud, drawing on his own Provençale Jewish heritage, including his final string quartet work, the 1973 Études sur des Thèmes Liturgiques du Comtat Venaissin, as well as his stirring Seventh Quartet of 1925 and his jazz-inflected ballet fantasy, La Création du Monde. Other works performed included Maurice Ravel’s own foray into Jewish music, the extraordinary three Jewish songs in a new arrangement for voice, piano and strings, as well as the stirring wartime Fifth Quartet of Alexandre Tansman, the renowned Polish/French Jewish modernist master, composed after he fled to Nice to escape the Nazi Occupation of France.

Concert Program

Alexandre Tansman (1897-1986)
Fifth String Quartet (1940)
Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)
Études sur des Thèmes Liturgiques du Comtat Venaissin, op. 442 (1973)
Darius Milhaud
Seventh String Quartet, op. 87 (1925)
Intermission
Darius Milhaud
La Création du Monde, op. 81b (1922-1923)
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Chanson Hébraïque (1910), arr. by Robert S. Nelson
Deux Mélodies Hébraïques (1914), arr. by Robert S. Nelson
Charles-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)
Trois Anciennes Mélodies Juives (1854), arr. by Robert S. Nelson (American premiere)
Deuxième Verset du 41 Psaume* (1855), arr. by Robert S. Nelson