David Conway’s “Jewry in Music”

In a book published in January of this year, David Conway of University College London explores “why and how Jews, virtually absent from Western art music until the end of the eighteenth century, came to be represented in all branches of the profession within fifty years as leading figures–not only as composers and performers, but as publishers, impresarios and critics.” Writing in the Forward, Benjamin Ivry explores Conway’s work by way of considering the lives of German composers Felix Mendelssohn and Giacomo Meyerbeer, both of Jewish origin:

An unprecedented degree of public acceptance was required in order for German Jews to gain prominence in the quintessentially social role of composer. Wealth and societal standing were essential elements of this acceptance. Thus, when the 11-year-old Meyerbeer’s family had him pose for a formal oil portrait standing next to a piano, it was to place this child musical prodigy in the tradition of Mozart but also to underline his family’s social position. Unlike the young Mozart, however, Meyerbeer performed in public not to earn money but to make his family proud. He also made German Jews proud that one of their own could attain such prodigious artistry.

You can read the rest of Ivry’s article here. Conway’s book is available at Amazon.