Sounds of the Seder: A Passover Playlist

While the classical music repertoire is replete with Christianity-inspired sacred works from composers across the centuries, the Passover season is a great time to discover (and re-discover!) works that celebrate Jewish and Hebrew themes and traditions.

Classical music stations have been replaying the hour-long special by Itzhak Perlman where he shares Passover music and songs and memories from his childhood in Israel. You can stream it here!

And if you’d like to re-hear any of the featured works, the playlist can direct you.

You’re likely familiar with many classical music works by Jewish composers. Bernstein, Copland, Mahler, Mendelssohn (yes! Mendelssohn!), Schoenberg and so many others have enriched the repertoire and humanity as a whole with their genius. Less famous and worthy of your time:

Steve Reich: a pioneer of minimalistic music, even using electronic elements in his work. In 1981, he composed Tehillim (a Hebrew word meaning “psalms”) as a tribute to his faith.

Marcel Tyberg: an Austrian composer and teacher before World War II, his Jewish heritage resulted in his arrest and deportation to Auschwitz, where he died in 1944. Luckily, he’d given his hand-written manuscripts to a friend for safekeeping. They wound up in Buffalo, NY decades later to be deciphered and reconstructed, starting with the his  Symphony No. 3 in D minor.

Erich Korngold: considered one of the founding fathers of film scores, he fled Europe for Hollywood when Hitler came to power and earned two Academy Awards before leaving movies to create music for the stage and concert hall. His Violinkonzert reinvents some of his film themes.

Alexandre Tansman: a Polish Jewish composer who fled the pogroms to Paris after World War I and left that city for America two days before the Nazis marched in. His work is heavily influenced by Jewish themes. In 1950, he wrote “Isaiah the Prophet,” an oratorio that honors the victims of the Holocaust.

Chag Pesach samech! Happy Passover!