Video of the Goldner String Quartet performing the 2nd and 3rd movements of Samuel Alman's Ebraica Quartet.
|Date||12th August 2017|
Samuel Alman (1878–1947) is considered by many to be the greatest English composer of synagogue music, but his story, like that of so many others represented in this festival, had very different origins. Alman was born in Sobolevka, Podolia (an area straddling the modern-day Ukrainian/Moldovan border), and studied music at the Conservatoires in Odessa and Kishinev (now Chişinău, capital of Moldova). He also served as a conscripted musician in the Russian Imperial army in Odessa for four years.
A refugee from the first Kishinev pogrom, Alman fled to London, where he continued his musical studies at the Royal College of Music, focussing on opera. His musical talents were very quickly recognised beyond the establishment, and before long he was appointed Choirmaster at three synagogues, including the Great Synagogue in Duke's Place (destroyed in WWII). Two published volumes of synagogue music (1925, 1938) cemented his status as the most influential Jewish liturgical composer of the day, but Alman also delved into the world of secular music, most notably with his 1912 opera Melech Ahaz (King Ahaz), written for the foundation of the Feinman Yiddish People’s Theatre. As leader of the Halevi Choral Society and the London Hazzanim Choir, Alman also made arrangements of popular Yiddish songs, as well as art songs in Hebrew and several works for piano and organ.
Alman’s Ebraica String Quartet (published 1932) is one of only two works that the composer wrote for string ensemble, the other being his Three Pieces (Prelude | Innocence | Lullaby) from 1931. Whilst making reference to the music of the great 19th-century synagogue composers, Alman also adopted the elaborate harmonies of his day, exhibiting the influence of Debussy in particular. The two movements in this video exemplify both the lyrical and the lively aspects of Alman’s music as he attempted to fuse the cantorial traditions of his homeland with the new musical colours of the Impressionist school.
Program note (c) Dr Stephen Muir