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Holland tour 2002

Gnesin project



Gnesin Program

Sovali - soprano

Perry Robinson - soprano & sopranino clarinet

Arthur Baron - trombone & flutes

Grigory Sedukh - violin & piccolo violin

Alexander Oratovsky - cello

Anat Fort - piano

Roberto Haliffi - percussion


A Nigun fun Schajke-Pfaifer (1914) cello, piano

Improvisation ensemble


Pesnya Stranstvuyushchevo Ritsarya, V pamyatj Zyuskinda iz Trimberga cello, piano

- minnezingera XIII veka, Op. 34 (1921)

(Song of a Knight Errant, in memory of Süßkind von Trimberg - the Jewish minstrel from the 13th. century)


Yevreyskiye Pesni (Jewish Songs), Op. 37 (1923-26) voice, ensemble (arr.)

1. Jad anuga haita la (Her delicate hand)(Zalmen Shneur)

  1. Pesenka Mariamnyi (bez slow) k tragedii “Irod i Mariamna” Gebbelja (vocalise)

(Song of Miriam (vocalise) from the tragedy “Herod and Miriam” by Hebbel)

  1. Shir Hashirim” (Song of Songs, Chapter 8, Stanza 8-10 “Akhot lanu ktana”(“We have a little sister”))

  2. Der Sojne ba di tojern (The enemy is at the gates)(O. Schwartzman)

Improvisation ensemble


Sonata in g-minor, Op. 43 (1928) violin, piano


Tri Melodii (Three Melodies) Op. 60 cl., vln., vcl., pi..

  1. Pesenka Dzherèn, na osnove Turkmenskoi melodii (Dzjerèn’s Song, based on a turkmenean melody)

  2. Ukrainskaya Pljaska (Ukrainean Dance)

3. Liricheskoye Intermezzo (Lyric Intermezzo)


- intermission -


Muzika k “Povesti o Ryizhem Motele” Josifa Utkina, Op. 44 (1926-29) voice, piano

(Music for the “Story of red headed Mottele” by Josef Utkin, Op. 44)

  1. Pesnya o ryizhem Motele (Song of red headed Mottele)

  2. Pri tshëm i ni pri tshëm (Who’s business is it?)

  3. Na bazare (On the market)

  4. V otsheredi (Standing in line)

  5. Tshasyi” (Pesnya tekushich del) (“The clock” (Song of currant affairs))

  6. V sinagoge (In the Synagoge)

  7. Pogrebaljnaya” (Funeral Song)

  8. V tshëm fokus” (razmuishleniya o zhizni) (“What is the answer” (thinking about life))


Yevreyskyi orkestr na balu u gorodnichevo” (Grotesk), Op. 41 (1926) ensemble (arr.)

(K postanovke “Revisora” Gogolja v teatre imeni B.E. Meyerholda)

(“Jewish orchestra on the ball of the bailiff “ (Grotesque), Op. 41

- incidental music for the performance of Gogol’s “Revisor” at V.E. Meyerhold’s theatre)

Gnesin Program Notes

In our world, with its advanced communication networks, we tend to think everything is known and the surprise of discovery has more or less disappeared. Yet, somehow there is always a forgotten corner somewhere. In our world, who ever heard a song, a cello sonata, or an orchestral piece by Mikhail Fabianovich Gnesin (1883-1957)? One seldom sees or hears this name on a concert hall program, in a radio broadcast, or on a CD. To this day, the name is connected with a famous conservatory in Moscow. The man who bore the name was known in the Soviet Union as an erudite composition teacher, and died an honored Soviet composer, but the Jewish composer Gnesin has been forgotten.

Mikhail Gnesin belonged to the St. Petersburg Society of Jewish Folk Music (founded in 1908), a group of composers devoted to the creation of Jewish classical music. The group was led by the music critic, composer and publisher Joel Engel (1862-1927). In addition to Gnesin, the composers included Joseph Achron (1886-1943), Alexander Krein (1883-1951), Moshe Milner (1886-1952), Solomon Rosowsky (1878-1962), Lazare Saminsky (1882-1959), Ephraïm Skliar (1871- ? ) and Alexander Weprik (1899-1958). They did research on Jewish traditional music, published music scores and essays on Jewish music, organised musical events, issued a periodical, set up a library, and opened departments in other cities. The movement grew up under the influence of the nationalistic trends prevailing in Europe at the time, creating renewed interest in traditional musical styles. The breeding ground for the St. Petersburg Society was Rimsky-Korsakov’s composition class at the conservatory attended by several members of the Society, where they were encouraged to explore their Jewish musical heritage.

A favorite student of Rimsky-Korsakov, the young composer Gnesin started out brilliantly with original works like his orchestra piece Vrubel, which won him the Glinka prize. Yet he found his true calling as a composer in the field of Jewish music. Gnesin wrote: “Elements of Jewish music captured my musical feelings and imagination to such an extent that even when I did not have the mission to look for a Jewish style, those elements appeared in my works (in Braun, J., Jews in Soviet Music, in: Miller, J., ed., Jews in Soviet Culture, p. 69). Gnesin’s first Jewish work A Nigun fun Shaike Pfaifer was published in 1914 by the Society for Jewish Folk Music. Numerous compositions on Jewish themes followed, including arrangements of traditional material and original works ranging from the smaller forms of song and chamber music to the larger forms of symphony, choir and opera.

This inspired period lasted until Stalin’s take-over cruelly terminated the renaissance of Jewish music in Russia. Boycotted by Stalin’s cultural policy, eliminated from history, forgotten by the world, the scores yellowed in the archives just like those of his partners in adversity, and the memory of this music was only kept alive by a small group of initiates. “Many, too many composers and works (M. Gnesin… among others) are still patiently waiting for an encounter with their audience. It is to be hoped, that this waiting is not in vain” writes composer / musicologist Abraham Jusfin (A. Jusfin, Unterdrückung und Verfolgung im Nach-Stalinismus, in: J. Braun, ed., Verfemte Musik, p. 187).

Was it a coincidence? Who knows? This music came our way. I talked in New York with the singer Mascha Benya Matz, an expert on Jewish repertoire. She showed me some songs by Gnesin and his group. I thought the music was interesting and understood immediately that here was an honorable and gratifying calling. Considered from an artistic, music-historical and political point of view, the creative work of Gnesin and his friends deserves recognition.

The Israeli pianist/composer Anat Fort, the American clarinettist Perry Robinson, the American trombonist/composer Arthur Baron, the Russian violinist Grigory Sedukh, the Russian cellist/composer Alexander Oratovsky, and the Libyan percussionist Roberto Haliffi promised their cooperation for this project; I myself, the Dutch singer/musicologist Sovali, will do the vocal parts and the musicological research. We chose the finest songs and chamber music pieces. Some works we will perform fully, others we will adept to the strength of our ensemble, or take as point of departure for improvisations.

Amsterdam, October 20, 2001 Sofie van Lier (Sovali)


Concerts at St.Petersburg and Moscow


Gnesin-Krein project


Holland tour 2005


Grigory Sedukh. Violin-Piccolo. Sara Crombach. Piano.




S.Feldman. Hebraische Melody.

J.Engel. . Freilachs. Op.20, #2.

L.Zeitlin. Eli Zion.

A. Krein. Ornaments. Op. 42. #2

E.Zimbalist. Orientale.

M.Bruch. Kol Nidrei. Op.47.

M.Gnesin. Violinsonata in G-major, Op. 43


R.Samson. "Eine Kleine Gamelan-Music"

A.Krein.Caprice Hebraique. Op.24.
E.Bloch. Abodah.
J.Dobrowen. Hebrew Melody. Op.12.

B.Shar. Jewish Dance. #5.

J.Achron. Hebraische Melody. Op.33.

E.Bloch. Baal Shem. #2, #3.



J.Engel. Chabader Melodie. Op.20. #1

  1. Rubinstein. Melodie Op.3



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