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Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Vocalise-Étude: Vocal

Vocal Score | Vocal
Composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Publisher Alphonse Leduc
Instrumentation Medium Voice and Piano

Born into a family that had lived in Florence since the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) entertained only a distant relationship with the music he heard at synagogue. It was only when he discovered Schelemo, a rhapsody for cello and orchestra written in 1916 by Ernest Bloch, that he began to understand what “Jewish music” could be.

In the mid-1920s, the young composer found a collection of prayers set to music among his maternal grandfather’s papers. Something clicked, and from then on, Jewish tradition would become a source of inspiration for Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1928, two years after publishing the Dances of King David, he wrote this Vocalise-Étude for medium voice and piano at the request of vocal teacher Amédée-Landély Hettich, who wanted to include it in the Répertoire moderne de Vocalises-Études published by Leduc. The piece became so popular that several instrumental adaptations were soon created, published under the title Chant hébraïque (for violin and piano: AL17 713; for cello and piano: AL 17196).

Divided into three sections, this wordless melody opens with a “sad and impassioned” chant that appears to grieve the tragic fate of the Jewish people. A folk dance follows, in which a “lively and stubborn” movement has great panache. The third section returns to the initial poignant theme before briefly reiterating the dance motif, allowing the piece to conclude on a hopeful note. The composer himself would adopt this proactive stance, refusing to yield to resignation when, fleeing Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws, he decided to emigrate in 1939 to the United States, a land of refuge to which he would remain faithful until his death some thirty years later.

Product Type Vocal Score
Release Date 2018
ISMN 9790046174674
Edition Number AL17467
Catalog No. AL17467
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