Sovali, soprano / Paul Prenen, piano

The programme includes a selection of the finest songs and piano music written by the composers of the Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music (1908): Joseph Achron (1886-1943), Mikhail Gnesin (1883-1957), Alexander Krein (1883-1951), Moses Milner (1886-1953), and Alexander Weprik (1899-1958).

There was a trend at the start of the twentieth century in Europe to incorporate folk themes into classical music. The same thing was done in Russia, where Jewish composers used Jewish themes in their compositions and studied Jewish folk music. In 1908 they founded the Society for Jewish Folk Music in St.-Petersburg, which went on for about ten years and was then disbanded due to the political situation.

In a relatively short period of time these composers created a sizable repertoire. It contains arrangements of traditional material as well as original works, ranging from small songs and chamber music pieces to larger symphonies, choral works and operas.
In conjunction with the St.-Petersburg Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society, they also helped create a valuable collection of Jewish folk music.

After the Revolution the composers each went their separate way. Some immigrated to Palestine, others to the U.S., and some stayed in the Soviet Union, where they tried to further the movement in Moscow. After 1930 however, Stalin’s cultural policy made Jewish culture no longer comme il faut in the Soviet Union. The music of the Society ceased to be performed, and the memory of it was erased.

Now, a hundred years later, it is possible to rediscover these musical jewels.

Parts of the programme premièred at the Moses Milner Conference in St.-Petersburg, Russia, on December 1st, 2003.

Programme and commentary
(Download PDF file)

Musicians’ resumees
(Download PDF file)

Visual material


Projects overview