Kaddish for Jessye Norman

Kaddish for Jessye Norman


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2020

The trailblazing singer died a year ago today.

This is Ravel’s setting of the Jewish memorial prayer in its High Holydays tune.


  • Dalledu Alletre says:

    Jessye is not at her most focused here (and she does the Deux mélodies hébraïques with the Kaddisch second), although I realize this is not the point of the post. Want to recommend Gubisch/Altinoglu (naïve, 2011) to listeners not familiar. She’s beautifully pure of line as well as commanding in spirit, setting up the Énigme éternelle.

  • Beinisch says:

    I heard her in Salzburg years ago singing this piece in a recital.
    It was so exciting. She knew very well the meaning of the Aramaic words and the importance to the Jewish prayers.
    This is one of the recitals I will never forget.

    • Eddie says:

      The first time I heard her . I became an instant follower. I wake up listening to her many times . I waited for her at the met many times for her . One night she called me by my name . What a night !!

  • yujafan says:

    oh, how I miss her, but her art is thankfully eternal. as if from another dimension of reality it speaks to the ear and the heart today as strongly as it ever did.

  • Terence Fleming says:

    I love her rich and glorious voice. There are certain voices that are so distinctive that you know them at once.
    Jessye Norman had such a voice.
    She was such an intelligent singer and you knew the sound came from a deep understanding of the texts she was performing but also from her heart.
    She has the same warmth when singing Spirituals. I heard her once live – just by chance. It was wonderful; I came out from the concert in a state of total bliss.

  • bluechazzan says:

    Stunning performance, though I was excited when years ago, I first spotted a mistake she made in this kaddish. Of course as you noted, in this context, the kaddish is not at all a memorial prayer. Jessye famously noted one shouldn’t sing in a language one can’t fluently speak. She did treat some of the transliteration as if she were reading German (as if the language were Yiddish, not Aramaic), resulting in an ‘sh’ instead of the more gutteral “kh” in “V’yamlikh…”

    It stuns me that more singers who perform this work don’t seem to make the effort to study it with any number of people who would be more fluent with it (pronunciation, phrasing, inflections – that said, same for Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei) in the course of their yearly High Holy Day prayers.

    I digress, it’s still one of my favorite recordings from Ms Norman.

  • Mathieu says:

    Goosebumps. Just goosebumps.

  • George says:

    Had the pleasure to attend the same High School in Augusta Georgia Lucy Laney with Jesse Norman she was saying at programs we had at the school and will receive a standing ovation every time love me some Jesse Norman

  • Melisande says:

    Kaddish means ‘sanctification’ in Aramaic and it is related to the Hebrew word kadosh, which means ‘holy. ‘ Of the five variations of the Kaddish; the best known is the Mourner’s Kaddish. The prayer never mentions death or dying, but instead proclaims the greatness of God.

    However Jessye Norman was a great soprano and will always be revered and remembered.

  • Mab says:

    Well whatever the Kaddish history…her spirit was a voice as well as her singing. How I wish we could hear her majestic voice in the dark night of our COVID and Trump days