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Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, February 2007

The musical works on this disc are all quite lovely and moving; yet somehow, they seem oddly incongruent with the festival they are intended to celebrate. The one song most closely associated with Hannuka is Ma 'oz Tzur (aka Rock of Ages and/or O Mighty Fortress, references to the Holy Temple), and it is universally sung to a well-known traditional melody. Here, in a setting by Aaron Miller (1911-2000), arranged by Neil Levin, it is not only the shortest track on the disc, but it is presented in Yiddish rather than Hebrew, and in a Klezmer-like setting that is nothing at all like its familiar tune. Not until the concluding section of Samuel Adler's The Flames of Freedom do we hear the traditional melody, but set against a piano accompaniment that takes a decidedly non-traditional turn in its harmony.

Other pieces on the CD-Leo Low's Likhtelekh ("Little Candles"), Solomon Ancis's Mizmor Shir Hannukkat Habbayit (Psalm 30), and Alexander Olshanetsky's Adonai Z'khranu (Psalm I 15: 12-18) are of a solemnity that seems more appropriate to the cantorial style of the High Holidays than to a festive celebration like Hannuka.

Remarkably, the longest and most fully developed work, Samuel Adler's To Celebrate a Miracle, is a purely instrumental piece for wind band, played magnificently by the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory Wind Symphony, conducted by Rodney Winther. Other participants in this program include Cantors Simon Spiro, Benzion Miller, and Moshe Haschel; Samuel Adler, Neil Levin, Tim Koch, and Ronald Corp as conductors; Abba Bogin and Zhou Jin on piano; and choral contributions from Coro Hebraeico, Schola Hebraeica, the Rochester Singers, Southern Chorale, University of Mississippi, and the New London Children's Choir.

I'm a bit reluctant in calling this a program of "traditional" Hannuka music, inasmuch as it contains a variety of works, all of which may use the trappings of the festival as a basis for titles and texts, but are quite varied in musical style and content, and are not entirely compatible with its character. Nonetheless, as an adjunct to other Archive releases that focus on secular Yiddish song and liturgical synagogue services, this makes a welcome addition.

Cincinnati Enquirer, March 2005

"...a radiant collection."
"...beautifully performed by the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music Wind Symphony, conducted by Ronald Winther."

The Electric Review, March 2005

"…Samuel Adler's 'The Flames of Freedom' is absolutely stunning: melodious and subtle, sending wild bursts of shivers up all sides of the spine."

Town & Village, March 2005

"The performances are first-rate by a variety of ensembles... don't have to be Jewish to enjoy the CD."

Seattle Times, March 2005

"The diversity reflected on this disc is extensive indeed.... Adler's 'To Celebrate a Miracle' [is] a reflective but spirited instrumental work..."

John Guinn
The Oakland Press, March 2005

"...intensely joyful..."

Michael Barnes
XL (the weekly magazine of the Austin American-Statesman), December 2004

The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music is a not-so-minor miracle. For the faithful, the archive's Naxos-label CD series -- 30 releases so far -- broadens and deepens an understanding of Jewish heritage in this country. For goyim like myself, the CDs serve as musical windows onto centuries-old traditions sometimes screened off from the general public. As Hanukkah continues, I reach for Milken's "A Hanukka Celebration" (transliterated from Hebrew without the second "h"). The generous liner notes sketch the Festival of Lights' history from the Jewish victories against the Seleucid Empire in the second century B.C. to modern-day American celebrations. Raymond Goldstein's lovely candle-lighting benedictions introduce this anthology with simple harmonies and counterpoint among soloists and modest-voiced choral singers. A more complete choir sings a post-lighting "Hannerot Hallalu" by Hugo Adler. The ceremony-ending "Ma'oz Tzur," based on a 13th-century poem, is sung by Cantor Aaron Miller in a contemporary Bobover Hasidim version. Hanukkah-related folk songs inform Samuel Adler's Copland-esque "To Celebrate a Miracle" for large wind ensemble, while Leo Low's choral "Likhtelekh" and Zavel Zilbert's solo with piano, "Di Khanike Likht," evoke a warm Yiddish mood. Herbert Fromm's non-liturgical "Hanukkah Madrigal" could easily be mistaken for seasonal music from another monotheistic religion. The CD also features two multi-part works, Adler's "The Flames of Freedom" and Michael Isaacson's "Aspects of a Great Miracle." The first is a delicate cantata for three-part choir, much like Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols," and manages to blend the best elements of 20th-century innovation with a feel for antiquity.

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2004

"Hanukka (also known as the Festival of Dedication) is celebrated by Jews to commemorate the Maccabean victory in 165 B.C.E. over the Greco-Syrians. Their religious freedom was at stake. The Festival marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the legend of the miraculous eight-day life of the light in the candelabrum.

Raymond Goldstein’s B'rakhot L'hanukka has the style of the best Scandinavian tradition admixing the romance of The Bluebird (Stanford). The writing for choir and cantor soon gives place to a piece for chorus and piano from Hugo Adler. The Miller piece sounds positively Russian - heroic and darting along. Then comes Samuel Adler’s To Celebrate a Miracle, a bright purely orchestral fantasy with a really Christmas ‘signature’ rather like the seasonal pieces by Geoffrey Bush and David Cox. At 13:36 this is the longest piece on the disc. Judith Shatin’s Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin gradually accelerates the tempo to a welter of notes and then relaxes. Samuel Adler’s The Flames of Freedom is an eight song sequence which includes writing for a jewelled piano and female chorus. This is often dreamy reverential, glittering - the piano often high in its starry upper registers and accommodating more dissonance than we are used to. The women’s voices take the high ground in the smoothly singable Likhtelekh by Leo Low.

Traditional Hanukka songs both favourites, familiar over the years, as well as new works adding fresh life to an ages-old tradition."

Michelle J. Mills
Los Angeles Daily News, December 2003

"In a word, this effort is spectacular. A combination of cantors, choirs and musicians work together to bring forth traditional songs in their original settings for a timeless release. The selections include works by Samuel Adler, Michael Isaacson, Leo Low and more.

The majority of lyrics are sung in Hebrew, but there are some cuts in English as well. As a whole, the album comes across quite intense; it is softened by the voices of the New London Children's Choir. There are light moments, as with any classical work, yet all of the selections are fired with emotion.

The album has one of the best J-cards I have ever seen. It explains the meaning of Hanukka and what is being expressed in each selection. There are also sections on the composers, the text and translations and the performers. The end result is a work which can introduce you to Hanukka, help you understand the festival in another way and add to your celebration. For classical and choral music lovers, "A Hanukka Celebration'' is a must-have for your record collection."

Albuquerque Journal, December 2003

"At once a special and remarkable music CD. It is both because the recording contains largely orchestra and choral groups performing works for the Jewish festival of rededication. And the target audience for these works is not children, but people of any age or religion who want to hear well-written liturgical and secular music keyed to a centuries-old holiday. The first three cuts, by 20th-century composers Raymond Goldstein, Hugo Adler and Aaron Miller, refer to the holiday's primary observance of the eight-day holiday -- the at-home lighting of candles. Among the other works on the CD are a cantata, a series of a cappella choral pieces called "Six Madrigals," a song based on a poignant poem written in Yiddish and a piece for large wind ensemble. The variety of settings deepens the listener's appreciation of the music. Another reason for the album's special/remarkable quality is that it is part of a series of 50 planned recordings, the first 10 of which were released this year, drawn from Jewish experience in America. Some of the other 2003 CDs in the series, called the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, showcases the music of Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Darius Milhaud as well as distinct genres such as klezmer and music from the Yiddish stage."

Marc Shulgold
Rocky Mountain News

"As part of the extraordinary survey of Jewish music sponsored by the Milken Archive, this disc offers 20th-century music by more than a dozen composers."

Jason Victor Serinus
Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity

"This well-recorded assemblage of traditional and original settings by Jewish composers is one of 50 CDs expected from the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music. Release of this incomparable collection is timed to celebrate next year's 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jews in America. More than 600 works written by more than 200 composers, nearly half of them living, have been newly recorded, most either for the first time or in new reconstructions or arrangements. The music of Kurt Weill, Darius Milhaud, and Leonard Bernstein figures prominently among early releases."

Jonathan Takiff
Philadelphia Daily News

"A Hanukkah Celebration" (Milken Archive/Naxos) celebrates the Jewish Festival of Lights with traditional songs performed by lilting-voiced choirs and cantors, plus more modern works like Samuel Adler's vocal suite "The Flames of Freedom." This album definitely puts the holy back in the holiday."

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