Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

(v) Western Europe and the Americas

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(v) Western Europe and the Americas.

Jews forced to convert to Christianity in Spain and Portugal began to leave the Iberian Peninsula towards the end of the 16th century to establish new communities, which are usually called ‘Portuguese’ or ‘Spanish-Portuguese’. They settled in Venice, Amsterdam and south-west France (Bayonne, Bordeaux) and later expanded to other centres in Europe (Paris, London, Hamburg, Livorno, Gibraltar, Vienna) and the Americas (New York, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, Charleston, Savannah, Curaçao etc.). The foundations of their liturgical tradition may be traced back to the ‘mother’ community of Amsterdam. This repertory is based on the North African and Ottoman Sephardi practices (the first cantors of Amsterdam were ‘imported’ from these non-European centres) combined with the creations of local cantors (who were expected to read music notation and perform Western art music). Among the earliest Sephardi cantors in Amsterdam were Joseph Shalom Gallego from Salonika (officiated c1614–28) and Rabbi Isaac Uziel from Fez, Morocco.

The engagement of cantors from Amsterdam in the ‘sister’ communities contributed to the relative uniformity of their liturgical repertories. In the course of time, as the demographic composition of these synagogues changed, more local traditions emerged. Thus, the liturgical music tradition of the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue of Bevis Marks in London, preserved in the collection by Emanuel Aguilar and David A. de Sola (The Ancient Melodies of the Liturgy of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, London, 1857), shows North African influences resulting from the engagement of cantors from Morocco and Gibraltar. On the other hand, the repertory of the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue of New York City includes liturgical compositions by 19th-century German Jewish composers following the contingent of German Jews who joined this congregation.

Original liturgical compositions by cantors from Amsterdam and other Western Sephardi communities (London, Hamburg, Bayonne) are preserved in manuscripts and printed anthologies (Adler, 1989). After the opening of the impressive new synagogue in Amsterdam in 1675, both Jewish and non-Jewish composers were commissioned to write original works in Hebrew with instrumental accompaniment for religious festivals, usually cantatas in the Italian style of the 18th century (Adler, 1966). Among the most distinguished composers serving the Amsterdam community were C.J. Lidarti (1730–after 1793) and Abraham Caceres (fl Amsterdam, 1718–38). Melodies from these elaborated musical compositions from more than two centuries ago survived as monophonic liturgical melodies in the oral tradition (Adler, 1984). Another sign of the influence of art music on the Western Sephardi synagogues is the use of trained choirs in the services, a phenomenon that appeared for the first time in the 1820s in Bayonne, then in London (1830s) and Amsterdam (1875).

Jewish music, §III, 4: Liturgical and paraliturgical: Sephardi

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