Jews turn to cello

Jews turn to cello


norman lebrecht

November 01, 2019

The Lebrecht Album of the Week is an unexpected compilation of cello concertos by Jewish composers:

Jewish composers write violin concertos first, piano second. All other instruments are also-rans.

Credit, then to Raphael Wallfisch for dusting off cello concertos by three Jews…

Read on here.

And here.


More, please? Well, there’s Ligeti, Weinberg, Goldschmidt, Morton Feldman…


  • John Borstlap says:

    …. and the cello concerto of Hans Gal:

  • esfir ross says:

    E.Korngold was born in Czechoslovakia and moved to Vienna. He’s not Austrian born as article claim

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Get your facts straight. Korngold was born in Brno when it was part of Austria-Hungary.

      • Steven Holloway says:

        Brno was never part of Austria-Hungary, but Brunn (umlaut over the u if you have one) was. Brunn is Austrian, Brno is Czech — if you really, really want to get your facts straight, Norman.

        • clarrieu says:

          Well, Brünn is (was) Brno, austrian till 1918 and czech after WW1:

        • Saxon Broken says:

          SH: “Brno was never part of Austria-Hungary, but Brunn was”

          Huh? How bizarre. The city was in the Austrian (or German) part of Austria-Hungary and largely German speaking before the 20th century. Moravia and Bohemia were around one-third German speaking at the time. Even Czech speaking families wanted their children to get their education in German.

          Korngold thought of himself as part of this German speaking community. After the war Bohemians/Moravians had to choose between an Austrian identity and a Czech identity. Korngold settled in Vienna and considered himself Austrian. He never thought of himself as being Czech.

      • esfir ross says:

        So all composers born in Poland before 1918 Versilles treaty are Russian Impire born?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    The Wallfisch recording sounds very interesting and well worth checking out. But I take a bit of an issue with our host’s main line of argument here. Cello concertos by Jewish composers a rarity? Two by Offenbach, who wrote marvelously for his instrument. Three by David Popper (no surprise there). Song of Orpheus by William Schuman is darn close to being a concerto. Two by Dmitri Klebanov who wrote some gorgeous concerted viola and viola d’amore music but no violin concerto that I am aware of. Gerald Finzi was perhaps nonobservant as a Jew but might have composed the most beautiful cello concerto of them all.

  • The View from America says:

    … and let’s not forget Antal Dorati’s — also recorded by Wallfisch.

  • esfir ross says:

    Alfred Schnittke cello concerto’s best of all three above.

  • Jay Shulman says:

    Alan Shulman’s Cello Concerto (1948) is “Dedicated to the People of Israel” and received its premiere by Leonard Rose with Dimitri Mitropoulos conducting the New York Philharmonic in 1950. Apart from performances by George Ricci (1962) and Susan Poliacik (2005), it was neglected until Troy Records released Wesley Baldwin’s performance in 2010.

  • v says:

    Do I see Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin?


      No, you see Erich Korngold with his long baton and a Gershwin lookalike announcing at an NBC microphone. Gershwin did have his own NBC radio programme called “Music by Gershwin”, broadcast from New York. The sponsor was “Feenamint”, a laxative chewing gum. He featured a number of guests but not Korngold, who did not take up residence in Hollywood as a film composer till 1935, the year Porgy and Bess was premiered in Boston. There is a photo of Gershwin at the piano, reading his radio script into an NBC microphone. He always introduced the music from the keyboard, not standing up. The radio fees were ploughed into the mounting of Porgy and Bess, which sadly never made a profit in his lifetime.

  • Cello rules .. says:

    thats wonderful .. more people should play, hear, write and listen to Cello concerti ! Cello is the most human Instrument .. it connects people

  • Peter says:

    “ Jewish composers write violin concertos first, piano second. All other instruments are also-rans.”

    Do you think this is different for non-Jewish composers?

    We have to allow for virtuoso composers who wrote primarily for their own instrument.

  • Steven Holloway says:

    How many non-Jewish composers got round to writing cello concertos??? The assertion about Jewish composers is silly. To the list of those Jewish composers who did so I see in comments already, I would add Weigl, Reizenstein, Goldschmidt, and Castelnuovo Tedesco.

    • esfir ross says:

      Max Bruch-non-Jewish wrote “Kol nidre” and only title’s Jewish. How much composer understand what “Kol nidre” prayer about. Forgive our sins and debts even we can’t pay back loans.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Well, for a few more, Victor Herbert, Boccherini, Haydn, Henri Wieniawski’s brother Joseph, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Donald Francis Tovey for the tref side, and for the kosher, at least half of the Schoenberg-Monn, which some cellists say is the hardest. The Jewish side is strengthened by Emanuel Feuermann, one of the best cellists who ever lived but who left no concerto..

    Interestingly, Ruggiero Ricci, Paul Hindemith, Adolf Busch, Eugene Ormandy, and Fritz Kreisler all had cellist brothers.

    The number of cellist-conductors is legion: Wallenstein, Hans Kindler, Victor Herbert, Toscanini, Harnoncourt, Casals, Frank Miller, Villa-Lobos.