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Milken Archive - S. Adler: Symphony No 5, Etc / Adler


Release Date: 03/16/2004 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559415   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Samuel Adler
Performer:  Mary Ellen CallahanHelen KruszewskiPen Ying FangTed Christopher,   ... 
Conductor:  Patrick GardnerSamuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rutgers Kirkpatrick ChoirEastman PlayersSlovak Radio Symphony Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Samuel Adler, one of America's most respected composers, is equally known for his Judaic and general concert works. The selection of works on this CD embraces choral, cantorial, chamber, solo, and symphonic music, culminating in the Symphony No. 5, We Are the Echoes, which is based on Jewish poetry reflecting aspects of Jewish experience throughout history. The finale quotes the Jewish philosopher Heschel: "Now and then, high above me, I catch a glimpse of the faceless face of God."

Full review from Fanfare Magazine:

Samuel Adler was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1928. His father, like Weisgall’s, was a highly regarded cantor. Thus, the young boy was exposed to the liturgy and traditions of the
Read more synagogue from an early age. In 1938, the family fled Germany for the US, where they settled in Worcester, Massachusetts. There, the elder Adler found his experience and abilities as a cantor in demand. Son Sam served as his father’s choir director from the age of thirteen until he entered university. He went on to earn degrees from Boston University and Harvard, studied composition with Copland, Hindemith, Piston, and Randall Thompson, and conducting with Serge Koussevitzky. After serving in the military, Adler was appointed music director of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas, a post he held until 1966. He left Dallas to join the faculty at the Eastman School of Music, later advancing to chair of the composition department. Adler’s catalog of secular works is extensive, including half a dozen symphonies, a dozen concertos for various instruments, eight string quartets, five operas, and numerous other pieces for orchestra, wind ensembles, and concert bands. Still, Adler’s interest in and devotion to Jewish liturgy and Jewish historical subjects have been a mainstay of his career. He has set over 60 liturgically based and Hebrew poetical texts, including numerous selections from Psalms. In addition to his contributions as a composer, Adler is a distinguished scholar and author in the field of Jewish music. The present CD contains a varied program of primarily vocal music from a cross section of Adler’s works.

The five Sephardic Choruses are settings of religious, but non-Scriptural, hymns and prayer texts sung during the course of various rituals and observances. The first, “Yom Gila,” is a particularly bouncy, delightful piece, as it should be, since it comes from a festival, Simhat Torah (literally, “Joy of Torah”) that celebrates the annual conclusion and beginning anew of the Scriptural reading cycle. No disrespect intended, but Adler’s style in this piece reminded me, if ever so slightly, of some of the writing in Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.

Nuptial Scene is a curious piece, both musically and textually. One would not necessarily expect a composer to warm to the subject of a mother’s pre-marital advice and instruction to her daughter on how to seduce her husband and keep him from straying. But not only does this turn out to be, in my opinion, the most deftly crafted piece of music on the disc, for me, it is also the most delicious. The mother’s part, sung here by mezzo Martha Bishop Kohler, is palpably sexual, almost lascivious, not in word but in deed, with insinuating winks and smirks in its vocal line. I loved it. The style is a dead-ringer for a number of passages in Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.

From Adler’s oratorio, The Binding, we are given but an excerpt from part II. The “binding” is a reference to the Biblical story in which God appears to Abraham and directs him to offer up his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. At the last minute, of course, Isaac is spared when Abraham takes the sudden appearance of a ram as a sign from God that the animal should be sacrificed instead. To many, myself included, this has always been one of the more deeply troubling chapters of the Old Testament—that a God of loving kindness and compassion should ask Abraham to sacrifice his son as proof of his faith, and then at the 11th hour to deliver a ram as a substitute (which instigated for centuries to come the practice of animal sacrifice) is difficult to comprehend, much less accept. It is a story that has disturbed and confounded many religious leaders and Biblical scholars. If I read Adler’s quoted note correctly, it was his father, Chaim, who authored the original libretto, which is a conflation of the story recounted in Genesis 22:1–19 with post-Biblical literature. In this new retelling, there is a role for Satan, which does not exist in the original. And in the excerpt we are given here, Satan questions and mocks Abraham’s blind faith, while Abraham pretends to Isaac that they’re merely out on a father-son camping trip. Adler’s score, sung in English, while superbly crafted, does not seem to me to capture sufficiently the underlying suspense and horror of the situation. Seven unconnected liturgical works follow, settings of various prayers sung during various synagogue services and observances. All involve a cantor as vocal soloist, mixed choir, and organ accompaniment. The last two elements (mixed choir and organ), not to mention the participation of a female cantor, Roslyn Jhunever Barak, in V’ahavta and Mi Khamokha, automatically disqualify these pieces from performance in a traditional Orthodox Jewish service. In fact, several of these pieces were commissioned by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (the Reform branch of Judaism in the US) to celebrate the American bicentennial in 1976.

Finally, we come to Adler’s Symphony No. 5, subtitled, “We are the Echoes.” It was begun in Rochester, New York, in 1974, and completed in Vienna in 1975. Though in five movements, it is not an overly long work, nor is it a purely abstract orchestral work. It is, in fact, a “song” symphony, each of its movements a setting of a poem by a different author: (1) “We Go,” by Karl Wolfskehl; (2) “Even During War,” by Muriel Rukeyser; (3) “The Future,” by James Oppenheimer; (4) “We are the Echoes,” by Carol Adler, the composer’s wife; and (5) “God Follows Me Everywhere,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Though never stated directly, the inference of all of the poems is clear; they are about persecution and the wandering of the Jews throughout history in search of religious tolerance and acceptance. Phylis Bryn-Julson is front and center for the whole thing, and she is quite magnificent. Adler’s music in the symphony, however, for me, is a tougher nut to crack. Again, as with everything Adler writes, there is no question of craftsmanship; yet I find myself unnerved by the sudden mood swings between moments of contemplative beauty, as towards the end of the fourth movement (“We are the Echoes”) and the sudden, wrenching outbursts of violence and rage. On reflection, perhaps that’s exactly the point.

Jerry Dubins, FANFARE

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Works on This Recording

1. Sephardic Choruses (5) by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Mary Ellen Callahan (Soprano), Helen Kruszewski (Soprano), Pen Ying Fang (Piano),
Ted Christopher (Baritone), Gideon Dabi (Baritone), Heather [Mezzo Soprano] Johnson (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Patrick Gardner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991; USA 
Language: Hebrew 
2. Nuptial Scene by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Margaret Bishop (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Eastman Players
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; USA 
3. The Binding: Excerpt(s) by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Raphael Frieder (Baritone), Joseph Evans (Tenor), Freda Herseth (Soprano)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; USA 
Language: English 
4. El melekh yoshev by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Language: Hebrew 
5. Ahavat olam by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960s; USA 
Language: English 
6. Sim shalom by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Language: Hebrew 
7. Bar'khu by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Language: Hebrew 
8. Sh'ma yisra'el by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Language: Hebrew 
9. V'ahavta and Mi Khamokha by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Barbara Harbach (Organ)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rochester Singers
Language: Hebrew 
10. Symphony no 5 "We Are the Echoes" by Samuel Adler
Performer:  Phyllis Bryn-Julson (Soprano)
Conductor:  Samuel Adler
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974-1975; USA 
Language: English 

Sound Samples

5 Sephardic Choruses: I. Yom Gila
5 Sephardic Choruses: II. Ya Ribbon Olam
5 Sephardic Choruses: III. Ein Keloheinu
5 Sephardic Choruses: IV. Adon Olam
5 Sephardic Choruses: V. Zamm'ri Li
Nuptial Scene
The Binding: (excerpt)
El Melekh Yoshev
Ahavat Olam
Sim Shalom
Bar'khu
Sh'ma Yisra'el
V'ahavta and Mi Khamokha
Hashkivenu
Symphony No. 5, "We are the Echoes": I. We Go
Symphony No. 5, "We are the Echoes": II. Even During War
Symphony No. 5, "We are the Echoes": III. The Future
Symphony No. 5, "We are the Echoes": IV. We Are the Echoes
Symphony No. 5, "We are the Echoes": V. God Follows Me Everywhere

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