Music for High Holy Days - Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur - September 17, 2021
Office of the Chaplain
Presents Organ Concert Series
Music for High Holy Days
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Virtual Recital with Sondra Goldsmith Proctor, Musician-in-Residence
Friday, September 17, 2021
Recorded in Gunnison Memorial Chapel
James Wildman, Recording Engineer
Samuel Adler (b. 1928)
The Lord of All (Adon Olom) melody by E. Gerovitch
Herman Berlinski (1910-2001)
Prelude for Rosh Hashanah
“This day the world was called into being”
Prelude for Yom Kippur
“Open the gates of heaven”
Elegy Written in memory of Albert Einstein
Samuel Adler and Herman Berlinski, two young men from Europe – Germany and Poland (via France) - arrived in the United States in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s searching for a way to earn a living as musicians. Samuel Adler came from Mannheim, Germany and was able to attend leading universities – Boston University and Harvard University – before he began teaching composition at University of North Texas and serving as Director of Music for Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. Subsequently, he moved to Eastman Conservatory of Music where he taught from 1966-1995, and now enjoys Emeritus status. After retiring from Eastman, he joined the composition department of Juilliard Conservatory in 1997. Although he composes for organ, he declares that he is not an organist but knows many of the esteemed organists of the world. His music is reflective and, occasionally, explosive; he paints pictures with his compositions.
When he became Director of Music for Temple Emanu-El, a Reform congregation, he found that there was not a great deal of music written for the Jewish liturgy. Using the knowledge that he gained from his father who was a cantor and organist, Samuel Adler learned about the organ and began to write for the services that he was conducting.
Written for Robert Baker, the founder of the Yale Sacred Institute and a renowned organist and conductor, Samuel Adler borrowed the tune ‘Adon Olom’ from E. Gerovitch (1844-19114), a Russian composer and professor. ‘Adon Olom’ (The Lord of All) comes from a 15th century liturgical text. Using the older, familiar melodies for exploration in the contemporary style of the 1960’s is a forte of Adler’s style.
Herman Berlinski was born in Leipzig, Germany after his parents left the Jewish community of Lόdź in Poland. They remained in Leipzig until the end of World War I. They were able to retain their Polish passports. Herman Berlinski was the last of six children raised in the Ashkenazic tradition of Orthodox Judaism. He began formal piano lessons in Leipzig. He was allowed to enter the Leipzig Conservatory at the age of 17 on a clarinet scholarship. By his second year, Berlinski changed his major to piano with theory as his minor. The major influences on his compositional style were J.S. Bach, Gustav Mahler, and Max Reger. Berlinski was not permitted to study organ at the conservatory because he would not convert to Christianity. He did attend concerts at Thomaskirche, the base for Johann Sebastian Bach’s last period of his life.
In 1933, Germany declared Herman Berlinski stateless because he was a Polish Jew. He returned to Lόdź, but did not fit in there either because he could not speak Polish; his family had spoken Yiddish in their home in Germany. He moved to Paris and after first studying with Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot, he began studying at the Schola Cantorum where he studied Jewish liturgical music with the Sephardic synagogue composer Léon Algazi and composition with Daniel-Lesur. He met other young composers including Olivier Messiaen. Messiaen and Daniel-Lesur encouraged Berlinski to compose, to explore and to express his Jewish heritage.
Berlinski became the music director of Paris Yiddish Avant-Garde Theatre, which was made up of immigrants who introduced him to many different styles of music, languages and cultures.
With the outbreak of World War II, Berlinski entered the French Foreign Legion. He served one very difficult year defending the Belgian border. With the Vichy regime declaring that certain groups of people were undesirable, Berlinski and his wife Sina left Paris for the United States where Berlinski’s father and other relatives had already settled. The young Berlinski’s apartment was ransacked before they left, damaging many of the compositions from the Yiddish Theatre. Herman and Sina were able to find a few fragments which later became the basis of many of his larger works.
Entering wholeheartedly into the Jewish musical scene in New York City, he studied and listened to new works by Bernstein and Messiaen, who coached Berlinski at Tanglewood. In 1951, he was offered organ lessons at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. After several years, he was recognized as a recitalist and excellent liturgical organist.
In 1963, he was appointed Music Director of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. to work with Rabbi Norman Gerstenfeld who was interested in contemporary music. Large choral works became important in his continuing exploration of his Jewish faith.
The ‘Two Preludes for the High Holy Days’ were written in New York City during the time he was first exploring the different colors of the organ. The pieces set the mood for the services to follow. Just as Adler’s music was written to fill out the music for Reform congregations, so was Herman Berlinski’s work very important in fulfilling the need of musicians based in synagogues.
‘Kol Nidre’ (All Vows) is based on the text that is said at the beginning of the evening Yom Kippur service. Yom Kippur effects individual and collective purification by the practice of forgiveness of sins of others and by repentance for one’s own sins against God. A portion of ‘Kol Nidre’ is chanted by the family sitting shiva after a loved one dies. You will hear the pain of loss with the traditional melodies overlaying the contemporary harmonies.
‘Elegy’ was written in memory of Albert Einstein. You will hear the personal loss of a friend and lush chords that support the mourners.
‘In Memoriam’ is grief filled and celebrates the stories of the people who have died.
Both Samuel Adler and Herman Berlinski came to the United States in search of a better life. They have given us a wealth of music and caring. Both men loved to tell stories. The richness of their stories has increased our knowledge about the fullness of life and the pain of the Jewish heritage. Their music continues to inspire us.
Germany has honored both composers with recognition of their contributions to the field of music. The United States, their chosen homeland, has also awarded many honors to both Samuel Adler and Herman Berlinski.
For this concert I am playing from music that each composer gave to me. It is a pleasure and responsibility to share this music with all of you.
Thank you for viewing this program. The next concert, Remembering!, will be posted or perhaps attended in person on Friday, November 5. Featured on that concert will be compositions of North Country composer Ralph Hastings.