Page 112 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
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Her first volume of poetry attracted the attention of William Cullen
Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other famous contemporary writers.
She turned to prose only in her later years when she attacked an article
by an anti-Semitic Russian woman defending the Czarist pogroms. Miss
Lazarus’ response, as well as excerpts from her famous ‘*Epistles to the
Hebrew,” written for
The American Hebrew
, are contained in the present
volume. In these “Epistles” she urged American Jewry to help the vie-
tims of persecution “With the keen, human sympathy of . . . Jews who
feel the sting of every wound and insult inflicted upon their blood-kindred”.
Returned from a long stay in Europe, she died of cancer in New York
City in 1887.
The tastefully arranged selection contains, in addition to poetry, spec-
imens of Miss Lazarus’ dramatic work and of her translation as well as
her essays on Disraeli, Heine, William Morris, Renan and Longfellow.
— A
l f r e d
W
e r n e r
i n
Contemporary Jewish Record
Children's Suite.
Hebrew Text by
H
ayy im
N
ahm a n
B
i a l i k
,
with
translation by
H
arr y
F . F
e i n
.
Music by
G
e r s h o n
E
ph r o s
.
New
York,
B
loch
P
u b l i s h i n g
C
om p a n y
,
1944. 36 pages. $2.00.
Gershon Ephros, a New Jersey cantor and the editor of an extremely
valuable cantorial anthology, attempts to get at what has been glibly
called the “folk source.” His desire is to create a Jewish national art
song for the 20th century, and for this purpose he draws upon whatever
impresses him as the Jewish cultural background.
What makes Ephros’ songs unique is his apparent grasp of the fact
that his solution does not lie in the artificial incorporation of folk melodies
or national style elements into art music. At the same time his music is
not unduly Westernized. Its essence lies in an originality unassociated
with any known musical tendency. By an organic combination of cantorial
modality •in the melodic line with a Western texture as harmonic back-
ground, Ephros avoids the pitfalls of his predecessors. These, either like
Salomone di Rossi in the 17th century, wanted to introduce the music
of Palestrina into the synagogue, or like the wandering Hazzanim of a
later period, endowed traditional Biblical melismata with the artifice of
Western opera in an effort to establish a bridge between the culture of
the West and that of the Diaspora.
Ephros is not guided by either of these two precedents. His melody
is simple and synagogal in character but his music does not display re-
gional elements. It is rather an ideal synthesis of the synagogal form
with the stylistic turns of early 20th century art music. The basic material
is elements common to both synagogal and Western music, e.g., the
fourth interval, which the composer successfully exploits as melodic sub-
stance. His piano settings draw from all kinds of Western mannerisms —
and very often draw too much and too unqualifiedly — but they stand
in no contradiction to the melodic line, nor do they appear as eclectic
or epigonic. Were it not for Bialik’s Hebrew texts, which in themselves
are free of nationalistic content and describe animals mostly, it would
be hard to tell that these songs are definitely Jewish. Yet one can hardly
doubt the national intent of such spirited songs as Arnevet (A Hare),
S’uda (A Feast), or such lyrical epigrams as Oniya (A Boat) and Keshet
(A Rainbow), once one has become aware of what Ephros is trying to do.