On October 17, the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music released the 48th CD in its pioneering recording series that documents music related to the Jewish experience in America. Titled Psalms of Joy and Sorrow, this new disc reflects the varied responses of twelve 20th- and 21st-century composers to some of the most affecting and enduring of all biblical texts-the Psalms.
Common to the liturgies, histories, and spirit of both Judaism and Christianity, the biblical Book of Psalms is one of the most widely familiar and most frequently quoted books of the Hebrew Bible. The Psalms’ sentiments and teachings, expressed in a singular blend of majestic grandeur and poignant simplicity, give them a uniquely universal resonance.
Encompassing virtually every human emotion and mood from exaltation to alienation, hope to despair, these texts have inspired musical interpretation since Jewish antiquity, with notated musical settings dating back more than ten centuries. Composers of virtually every orientation have engaged the Psalms in compositions ranging from large-scale works for chorus, full orchestra, and soloists to intimate a cappella choral pieces.
The original settings heard on this new CD, by both traditionally-minded and avant-garde composers, exemplify the variety of musical treatments and expressions the Psalms have inspired.
Participating artists heard on Psalms of Joy and Sorrow include actor Theodore Bikel, cantors Alberto Mizrahi, Charles Osborne and Meir Finkelstein; the BBC Singers, Laudibus Choir, Schola Hebraeica, Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra; and conductors Samuel Adler, Michael Brewer, Ronald Corp, Patrick Gardner, Steven Gunzenhauser, Avner Itai, Elli Jaffe, Neil Levin and Karl Anton Rickenbacher.