by Eric Haines
Hebrew liturgy provides blessings for every major event in the Jewish life cycle. Blessings for children, weddings, the Kaddish, the Kol Nidre and the Song of Solomon have inspired composers to write works that deserve a place on the concert stage. The Pittsburgh Jewish Music Festival ended its three-concert season on Tuesday evening in Levy Hall at Rodef Shalom Congregation with “Songs for the Seasons,” a program of richly impassioned compositions depicting major aspects of Judaica.
It may be over-simplifying, if not demeaning, to say that a goal of instrumentalists is to sing through their instruments, but that’s exactly what the players did. Samuels created the pastoral atmosphere of Gerald Cohen’s shimmering setting of Psalm 23. GingrasRoy was superbly evocative in Max Janowski’s “Avinu Malkeinu,” a fantasy on a High Holidays chant. Manriquez gave a clinic, mastering a wide range of expression and styles throughout the concert. …
Another mega-moment came from Cohen’s mini-cantata, “V’higad’ta L’vincha (“And You Shall Tell Your Child) and Dayeinu, “It would have been enough.” In his program notes, Cohen explains that he based the work on selections from the Haggadah, the central text of the Passover celebrations, stating, “we all must experience the story of the deliverance from slavery as if we ourselves had lived through it; we must then tell our children that story.”
The work begins with a chant-like motif, then moves through the oppression of slavery to the joy of deliverance, which is expressed in the lively dance setting of the Dayeinu. Goldstein, Soroka, Samuels, Zelkowicz and Manriquez rocked.