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The first Jewish composer in the European canon

My album of the week on Sinfini features music by Salomone Rossi, a colleague of Monteverdi’s, who wrote for church, synagogue and fun. The release is on an obscure label. Why isn’t Rossi better known?


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  1. That looks as though it’s on Glossa, which is Spanish rather than Belgian, and perhaps not so obscure to early music buffs. Incidentally, there is a fine disc from the viol consort Fretwork on HM, ‘Birds on Fire’, which includes music by a number of musicians at the Tudor court who are likely to have been Jewish-Italian migrants. Salomone Rossi also appears there with two settings in Hebrew of a hymn and a psalm, both beautiful works, the latter particularly affecting. Worth seeking out – and I shall do the same for this new disc. Thanks for drawing our attention to it.

  2. Have you tried Fretwork’s “Birds on Fire”
    Jewish composers in England at about the same time

  3. There’s a very impressive (and surprisingly exuberant) Kaddish by Rossi on an Erato recording from the mid-1980s:

  4. Julian Rowlands says:

    Maybe preceded in the canon by some of the Jewish musicians imported by Henry VIII – Lupo etc

    • C. Shapreau says:

      For more on this, see Peter Holman’s book, Four and Twenty Fiddlers, The Violin at the English Court, 1540-1690, Clarendon Press, 1993, at page 80 et seq., and citations therein.

  5. I remember the Jerusalem Symphony toured the US with a piece by Rossi in 1975.

  6. I would say it is because the circulation of publications of music by Rossi and other Jewish composer-performers of that period has been extremely limited; because Jewish liturgical music is performed in only some synagogues at services or perhaps by Jewish choral ensembles, and because we have too few ensembles or concert series that focus on Jewish music, perhaps because Jews spend most of their time out in the world and not in the ghetto. We need more Jewish orchestras and concert series, but the funding isn’t out there.

  7. John Parfrey says:

    Good question. Groves dedicates over 2 1/2 pages to Rossi. Fourteen sets of works are listed in his output. One is sacred (Jewish), nine sets of secular songs (mostly madrigals), and four volumes of instrumental works. I found 25 albums on US, but only five of them dedicated to his work.

  8. neil van der linden says:

    Glossa certainly is not an obscure label for people familiar with ‘early music’. Glossa is now what Harmonia Mundi as about ten years ago.
    The Turkish-Lebanese-Bulgarian early music and oriental music ensemble Sarband did a recording about seven years ago together with the King’s Singers of some Rossi pieces on their concept album Sacred Bridges. And indeed I think Harmonia Mundia at the end of the nineties did a Rossi album.
    Dutch documentary maker Remmelt Lukkien has made a documentary on Rossi.

  9. That may have been the ‘Solomon Rossi Suite’ by Lukas Foss, an effective setting of Rossi’s music for ‘modern’ symphony orchestra falling in the same broad category as the Pulcinella Suite or Handel/Harty Water Music, from a programming standpoint.. Orchestras play music from that era so seldom.

  10. Don Ciccio says:

    Lukas Foss wrote a Salomone Rossi Suite.

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