April 18, 2024
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Zamir Choral Foundation Presents Concert Celebrating Composer Salamone Rossi

(Courtesy of Zamir Choral Foundation) Four hundred years ago, Jewish-Italian Renaissance composer Salamone Rossi (circa 1570-1630), created a groundbreaking collection and musical triumph: the first published Jewish choral music set to sacred Hebrew texts. The late Renaissance/early Baroque music that Rossi’s genius created will be presented in a live concert under the direction of Matthew Lazar and performed by the Mantua Singers on Sunday, November 20 at Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center in Manhattan at 8 p.m.

Rossi was one of the great innovative musical figures in late 16th and early 17th century in instrumental and vocal music and collaborated with the celebrated Monteverdi and others. Determined to communicate Jewish texts in the musical style of his time, he was the first composer to apply Western musical harmonies and techniques to illuminate Jewish liturgical texts. Just as Handel wrote music to express his faith in his “Messiah,” similarly Rossi composed this music as a testament to his Jewish identity and faith.

According to music director and conductor Lazar, “I was first introduced to Salamone Rossi when I was 15 years old. He, of course, had been dead for almost 350 years, but his music spoke to me as clearly and directly as the great Western composers did, combining accessible yet riveting music with familiar and meaningful texts, creating an extraordinary experience and a journey like no other in the Jewish music canon. I had never heard Western harmony, especially in the Renaissance and early Baroque style, so completely and easily express the essence of Jewish texts and beliefs through the music.”

Rossi’s canon was written, as all music is, from left to right but the text, which is in Hebrew, was written from right to left. The musicians in Mantua had to master both vocabularies in order to sing Rossi’s liturgical choral music. Lazar has assembled a unique ensemble of professional soloists, the Mantua Singers, who will perform in this concert.

The Mantua Singers was created by Lazar to give voice to the extraordinary Jewish music of Rossi. While its members all enjoy successful solo careers, their combined sound, coupled with their unique ability to realize the Jewish sensibilities of the Italian master create an unparalleled ensemble. Each member of the Mantua Singers understands Rossi’s musical style and its relationship to the Hebrew text, a necessity for performing Rossi’s music passionately and with historical accuracy.

As an established musician and composer, Rossi was so well regarded that although there was discrimination against Jews (most of whom were confined to a ghetto), he was exempt from wearing the badge required of Jews. The publishing of his own musical settings was a testimony to his determination and ingenuity, creating “something new in the land,” the first published manuscript with musical notation and Hebrew characters. Rossi departed from the 1,500-year-old practice that rejected music other than traditional chants and modes in the synagogue, and gained rabbinic endorsement to establish an archetype by which subsequent composers and their work may be measured.

Tickets for the live concert may be ordered at Music of Salamone Rossi (https://www.kaufmanmusiccenter.org/mch/event/music-of-salamone-rossi/) for a cost of $40.00/$20.00 for students. This event is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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