The Philadelphia Orchestra's first release on the Ondine label, "The Philadelphia Orchestra/ Christoph Eschenbach," featuring "Concerto for Orchestra," by Bela Bartok; "Memorial to Lidice," by Bohuslav Martinu; and "Partita for Strings," by Gideon Klein, contains music that is meaningful and important for Jewish listeners. These three works were all written between 1943 and 1944, and are all directly connected to Holocaust experiences and reflections.
The Klein work was written shortly before the death of the 21-year-old composer in Terezin concentration camp. Martinu and Bartok wrote their works based on reports of Holocaust mass murders and destruction in their home communities after escaping from Europe and settling in the United States.
Maestro Eschenbach himself spent several years in Nazi concentration camps, and therefore delivers almost heart-rending performances of these little-known compositions. These gripping compositions sound slightly thin in this live recording.
The disc is also a compatible Super Audio CD, containing five discrete tracks of audio information that can be extracted by a SACD player.
The second recording is a concert of the "West-Eastern Divan Orchestra," composed of young Israeli and Arab musicians conducted by Daniel Barenboim, performing "Symphony No. 5," by Tchaikovsky; "Overture From the Force of Destiny," by Verdi; and "Valse Trieste," by Sibelius.
The consumer receives both a CD of the audio tracks, and a DVD of the concert with all kinds of supplementary information: interviews with Maestro Barenboim and his Divan partner, Edward Said, as well as voluminous program notes. The young musicians make beautiful music together on the level of a first-rate conservatory orchestra.
Former Philadelphian Kenny Ellis, now residing in Encino, Calif., has released a CD titled "Hanukkah Swings." Ellis sings all the traditional songs accompanied by a large big band playing terrific arrangements in swing tempos.
Finally, if song parodies in the tradition of Schlock Rock are your cup of Chanukah tea, check out "Guns 'n' Charoses - Gimme Some Latkes," with original humorous and slightly corny Jewish tinged lyrics to popular songs written and performed by Mark Edelman.
Cantor David F. Tilman, conductor and music educator, serves as chazzan of Beth Sholom Congregation and synagogue-skills instructor, Forman Center of the Perelman Jewish Day School.