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Lucidarium: ‘La Istoria de Purim’

Lucidarium explores Jewish music in Renaissance Italy, Ensemble Caprice performs gypsy-inspired baroque music, and a unique LP belonging to Leonard Bernstein.

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The Jews in Renaissance Italy

The oldest Jewish community in Europe is found in Italy. Its many families can trace the establishments of their communities back to the second century B.C.E. By the late-Renaissance, Italian Jews had a distinct, rich, and integrated identity within the country’s diverse number of states and principalities.

In 2005, the European ensemble Lucidarium released a special recording entitled “La Istoria de Purim,” which brought together excerpts of Jewish poetry and music from Renaissance Italy. The recording was focused on Purim, or “Festival of Lots,” a significant holiday in Judaism which celebrates the delivery of the Jews as told in the Book of Esther.

Central to Lucidarium’s program was a wealth of art and traditional song in Italian, Tuscan, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

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The notes to Lucidarium’s program reveal a connection between Jewish and Christian music of the period:

“The ancient musical traditions of the Italikim community, and those brought to Italy by the Sephardic and Ashkenazy Jews who emigrated there in search a better life, form a vast repertoire that often uses the same melodies and expressive language as the music of the ‘Gentiles’: These universally beloved themes bear witness to a deep-rooted shared tradition that goes beyond incomprehension and hostility.”

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Leonard Bernstein’s LPs

A recent acquisition by the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music of Leonard Bernstein’s studio yielded some nice surprises. The list of items, from Bernstein’s composing desk to a signed piece of the Berlin Wall, includes dozens of LPs. One gem among the LPs is a recording of Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach’s six Prussian sonatas for keyboard—released in 1983 by Dutch harpsichordist Anneke Uittenbosch, at a time when few complete recordings of the sonatas existed. It’s no surprise they caught Bernstein’s eye.

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Featured Release

Our featured release of the week is performed by the Montreal-based Ensemble Caprice. The theme of the recording revolves around Telemann’s gypsy-inspired music. Matthias Maute, the group’s director, also includes arrangements of gypsy music contemporary with Telemann and found today as part of the Uhrovska Collection, a volume with 350 melodies dated to 1730.

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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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