Solo Vocal Works on Jewish Themes: A Bibliography of Jewish Composers

By Kenneth Jaffe

Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011
xx, 436 p. ; 25 cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN: 9780810861350

An important new reference work has been published for identifying solo vocal works on all sorts of Jewish themes. This highly useful work gives an alphabetical list of composers with appropriate vocal works listed (not a complete list of works by each composer, but appropriately sticking to the scope of this volume). Many useful details, such as birth and death dates, place of birth, musical forces needed, first performance if known, translations of titles, and locations of scores. With some of the dramatic works, a lyricist might be named, as well as a brief synopsis of plot given.But the author doesn’t stop there; he provides useful “themes”, first based on the biblical texts, if used. In addition, he then provides themes such holidays, but also, “Jewish experience”, children’s material, philosophy, Holocaust or persecution, interfaith works, Jewish history, Yiddish theater, Sacred Services, and weddings. One can always quibble, but this author had found nothing but use in these divisions, geared toward the most likely individual and institutional use. He also takes the listings of works and provides a section by voice, so that a soprano or tenor might know which works fit their voice. The last two sections are an alphabetical listing of all the works, and a bibliography is also included. Jaffe rounds out the book by listing publishers and libraries which hold particular works. This is one of the most useful Jewish music reference works to come out in years. It’s very thorough, easy to read and understand the logic and arrangements of the book. Mostly, this is a highly useful work that will help performers, cantors, educators and others find music to fit their events and occasions, to help develop programming and to help students develop repertoire. Congratulations are due to Kenneth Jaffe for a work well done. I would highly recommend this work be purchased by synagogue libraries, academic and public libraries, as well as home purchase for vocal artists who produce programming for Jewish events or are looking for new repertoire.

Judith Pinnolis, Newton, MA