Some more Jewish composers   1 comment

Here’s another installment in my series on the Jewish composers from my OLA recital this past September.

Isadore Freed
The first piece I played was a setting of the Yigdal tune by Isadore Freed (1900-1960). He was born in Russia, and lived in Philadelphia. For a few years he lived in Paris and studied with Ernest Bloch, Vincent D’Indy and the renowned Paris teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Freed taught at the newly established Hebrew Union School of Sacred Music, in addition to his teaching posts at Temple University in Philadelphia, and as chair of the Composition department at the Julius Hart Musical Foundation in Hartford, Conn. At Hebrew Union, he expanded his course offerings to include a class devoted to Jewish modes. In 1958, he published his book Harmonizing the Jewish Modes, still used today.

Frederick Jacobi

The biggest “character” of all of these composers was probably Frederick Jacobi (1891-1952). Born in San Francisco and the son of a San Francisco wholesale wine merchant, he was independently wealthy and so could devote his entire livelihood to music. In his twenties he studied with such masters as Isidore Phillippe, Ernest Bloch, and Rubin Goldmark (teacher of Aaron Copland and George Gershwin).

Here’s the Alcatraz connection I spoke about at the concert:
During World War I, Jacobi served as a saxophone player in the Alcatraz Army Band; the Wikipedia article has a picture of him, looking very jaunty with his sax, at Alcatraz, at He later moved to New York, where he was a vocal coach and assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, and taught at Juilliard.

Quotes from Jacobi

“I am a great believer in melody; a believer, too, that music should give pleasure and not try to solve philosophical problems.”

“The surest way to kill whatever originality one possesses within himself is to try to be original!”


Jacobi’s wife Irene was in a box near the Metropolitan Opera stage one evening when Jacobi was the prompter [a person in the front of a stage giving cues to the performers, not meant to be heard by the audience]. After the performance she said, “Darling, you were wonderful. I heard every word you said!”

Posted October 22, 2011 by Ray Urwin in Uncategorized

One response to “Some more Jewish composers

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  1. For the love of God, keep witring these articles.

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