From Jewish Life
1999-2004, Kammermusikstudio, SWR Stuttgart
It was apparently Rimsky-Korsakov, himself a member of the “Mighty Handful” of Russian nationalist composers, who encouraged his students at the St. Petersburg Conservatory to go out and collect Jewish folk music and music sung in the synagogues, getting thus the ball rolling for a specific Jewish classical music. The movement led in 1908 to the founding of the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music and, in 1923, of the Society for Jewish Music in Moscow. The success of the latter and its members was however, short-lived. The antisemitic, anti-cosmopolitan forces that started to brew under the new soviet regime led many potential members of the society to emigrate. The ones that remained were forced to focus on proletarian themes and, even when complying to the requirements, still found themselves often repressed or incarcerated outright.
The last notable concert with the society’s music in the Soviet Union took place in Moscow, in April of 1929. Most of this music had then lain dormant for decades until the pianist Jascha Nemtsov (himself the son of a Gulag survivor) and his musical collaborators unearthed it in the last few years of the 20th century. The present collection contains on five discs the recordings – many of them world premieres – realized between 1999 and 2004.