About this Recording
8.559433 - GOTTLIEB: Love Songs for Sabbath / Three Candle Blessings / Psalmistry


Three Candle Blessings (1972)
Shalom Aleikhem with Candle Blessing (1975)
Love Songs for Sabbath (excerpts) (1965)
Set Me As a Seal (1991)
Shout for Joy (1967)
Psalmistry (excerpts) (rev. 1999)
Y’varekh’kha (1977

The broad spectrum of Jack Gottlieb’s musical endeavors spans concert and theater works, music of Jewish inspiration and liturgical compositions, and scholarship of the American popular idiom.  His compositions reflect the duality of his background, education and creative orientation.  Grounded in the typically American vernacular idioms of  jazz, Broadway and popular song, he was also steeped in the Jewish musical tradition, to which he was introduced by noted choral conductor and composer Max Helfman; and which subsequently informed his artistic activities.  Gottlieb served as Leonard Bernstein’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic, has edited his books and scores, and is recognized as a leading authority on Bernstein’s music.  Summing up Mr. Gottlieb’s musical style, Milken Archive Artistic Director Neil Levin remarks, “An imaginative sense of theater on the highest level permeates many if not most of his works.  With its rhythmic vibrancy, eclectic spirit, openness, and general mood of optimism, Gottlieb’s music has the thorough ring of a quintessentially American composer.”

In Mr. Gottlieb’s program notes for this Milken Archive CD, the composer observes that while the works on the recording span four decades in his creative life, they are linked by certain textual symmetries and display an expressive pattern: the more contemplative music for the Sabbath that occupies the first half contrasts with livelier Psalm settings in the second half.  Separating the two is Set Me As A Seal, a lively, syncopated setting of texts from the Song of Songs and the Book of Deuteronomy for chorus, violin and piano

The recording opens with three works connected to home and synagogue observances of the Sabbath.  Three Candle Blessings, scored for soloists, choir and organ, celebrates the weekly blessing of the Sabbath candles that is the special domain of women, and that has also made its way into the Friday evening service of American reform synagogues.  Readings from the Reform prayer book, rendered here by actress Tovah Feldshuh, have been added to the traditional prayers.  In the second work, Shalom Aleikhem With Candle Blessing, written for soloists, choir and brass ensemble, Gottlieb has combined the candle-lighting prayers with the best-known of Sabbath “table hymns,” (z’mirot in Hebrew), Shalom Aleikhem.  Traditionally sung by family and guests before and after the Friday evening meal, it is presented here in the familiar tune composed by Rabbi Israel Goldfarb that has achieved almost universal usage.

Nine vocal and instrumental sections from Gottlieb’s Friday evening service, Love Songs for Sabbath, are excerpted on this Milken disc, its world premiere recording.  The piece was commissioned in 1965 by Cantor David Putterman for his pioneering annual service of new music at New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue, and is scored for cantor, choir, organ and percussion.  Rather than a functional liturgical service, Gottlieb produced a large-scale work more suitable for concert performance.  He was subsequently persuaded to enhance the theatrical qualities of this service by adding poetic readings as well as a dancer to interpret certain passages.  In this new dramatic format, which includes poems by the great medieval Spanish-Hebrew poet Yehuda Halevi, Hannah Szenesh, and Ranier Maria Rilke, Love Songs for Sabbath was first performed at the White Plains, New York Jewish Community Center by Cantor Raymond Smolover, with Felicia Montealegre (Mrs. Leonard Bernstein) as reader and choreography by Anna Sokolov.  On this CD, the reader is again Tovah Feldshuh.

Shout for Joy is a setting for choir, brass ensemble and organ of three Psalm texts that are rich in references to both musical instruments and nature.  The composer has responded with musical suggestions of bird call and rippling water, among similar imitations, and with the use of three tuned drums in the first and third rhythmically syncopated sections that, in his own words, “are intended to convey a sense of excitement, dance, and joy.”  This work stems from the 1960s, when ecumenism was in favor, and was intended for performance in either synagogues or churches as well as in concert. 

This Milken recording features ten excerpts from another cycle of Psalm settings by Jack Gottlieb, entitled Psalmistry.  Scored for chorus, soloists and jazz ensemble, and marked by unmistakable echoes of American vernacular idioms, this work, alternately spirited and lyrical, utilizes several Psalm texts with musical references, the most famous being the 150th Psalm, in which many instruments are mentioned.  It also includes such familiar texts as the 23rd Psalm, the 24th (“The earth is the Lord’s”), and the 121st (“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains”).  In his program note, the composer notes his utilization of “familiar and traditional synagogue chant fragments and liturgical melodies, treated unconventionally.”  While they are employed in a stylized fashion and may not be readily apparent, he acknowledges that for him these tunes acted as “catalysts to the creative process…[and] by the same process, should have meaning, as unifying elements, for the listening process.”

The final work on this CD is a setting for cantor and choir of the three-fold priestly blessing Y’varekh’kha, the ancient text intoned during the concluding portion of many synagogue services.

Jack Gottlieb studied at Brandeis University with noted composers Irving Fine, Harold Shapero and Arthur Berger, and has acknowledged Copland, Stravinsky, Bernstein and Bartớk as major influences on his style.  Among his works are numerous songs in both “art” and popular styles, chamber music for various instrumental and vocal combinations, and a large body of synagogue music.  His compositions have been performed by ensembles and artists from the Boston Symphony and the Vienna Philharmonic as well as by Seiji Ozawa and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Bernstein; leading soloists; and a host of cantors, synagogue choirs, and other choral groups throughout North America.  Gottlieb has served as music director at a major American Reform congregation and as Professor of Music at the School of Sacred Music of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.  He is an authority, author, and lecturer on the influence of Jewish popular, folk, theatrical, and even liturgical musical traditions on the development of American popular music.

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