Cantata Ebraica Jewish melodies from Italy 2005
CD included

These are rarely heard melodies from Livorno, Rome and Florence collected through oral tradition by musicologist Leo Levi, among others, and later transcribed and harmonized for singers and instruments by Ramón Tasat.

cantataDesp

Track # Title Audio
1 Psalm 118 (I Praise You for Having Answered Me / Blessed in the Name of the Lord are all Who Come)
2 Shalom leBen Dodi (Peace be with you, my pure and fair beloved) Sh. Ibn Gabirol
3 Adío querida (Farewell my beloved)
4 Addio! del passato… (Farewell! From the Past…) G. Verdi
5 Lecha Dodi (Come, my beloved) Sh. Alkabetz
6 Hashkibenu (Grant us that we lie down in peace)
7 Akh Ze haYom Kiviti (Today I Believe) / Fate Onore del Bel Purim (Honor Purim) Wal Viva Nostro Burino / Alabemos (Let us all praise the God of Zion)
8 Psalm 114 (When Israel left the land of Egypt)
9 Psalm 150 (Praise God in His sanctuary)
10 Psalm 117-8
11 Parigi o cara (Paris, my beloved) G. Verdi
12 Ye’idun Yagidun (Witness, declare as one) Sh. Ibn Gabirol
13 Rachem (Have mercy upon us)
14 Yigdal (May the living God be magnified and praised) D. ben Yehuda
15 Adon ‘Olam (Master of the Universe) Sh. Ibn Gabirol
16 Amen Shem Nora Italian rite

THE BOOK
Throughout the centuries and especially after the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, the Italy city-states received Jews from all over the map. So welcoming was this land that Jews renamed it I-Tal-Yah (“Island of God’s Dew” in Hebrew).
Jews have lived in Italy since the year 160 B.C.E. when a delegation sent from Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee came to Rome. Since the 16th century and until our days, the impact of Italian art and popular music is overwhelming. The land of opera and bel canto could not but have a solid imprint into the liturgy.
The goal of this book is to provide amateurs and professional musicians alike with liturgical excerpts that will expand their repertoire of Judeo Italian liturgical music. The selections include suggested chord progressions and a few of the excerpts contain more elaborate piano arrangements more suitable to be performed at a concert hall.
The Hazzan will find liturgical melodies that he/she might like to introduce during religious services both as a soloist and with the purpose of congregational participation. Music teachers may be interested in Jewish Italian melodies to enhance their repertoire for Shabbat, holidays or other life cycle events. Musicians of all backgrounds will be exposed to melodies that are, for the most part, largely unknown to the outside world and can be arranged successfully for a variety of musical ensembles.

THE MUSIC
“Psalm 118” (I praise You for having answered me / blessed in the name of the Lord are all who come) is an opening choral conceived in two sections. The first section (Odekha ki ‘Anitani) is treated antiphonally by the soloist (Cantor) and followed by the other singers (congregation). After an unexpected modulation, “Barukh haBa” brings the opus to a brilliant finale.
“Shalom leBen Dodi” (Peace be with you, my pure and fair beloved) is a poem sung for weddings and for the holiday of Simhat Torah. The language of the Song of Songs is found throughout and reads: “At the time when love will flow, I will hurry / I will descend upon you as fast / As dew drops from Mount Hermon.” Tasat’s musical treatment mirrors the style of the 18th century.
“Adío querida” (Farewell my beloved) is a traditional Sephardic song and “Addio! del passato…” (Farewell! From the Past…) is a modern love song that has become very popular among Sephardic Jews. It narrates the disappointment experienced by a young lad for his unrequited love. The refrain’s melody resembles G. Verdi’s aria “Addio! del passato” from Act IV of his opera La Traviata.
The opening and closing liturgical poems for the Sabbath are traditionally set to contrafacts, a device involving the setting of a text, traditional or new, to a known tune. “Lekha Dodi” (Come, my beloved) is sung every Friday as an introduction to the Sabbath evening prayers. Its poetic structure follows the Arabic Hazag meter and it is performed responsively. The stanzas borrow some of their imagery from the Song of Songs and the prophet Isaiah.
“Hashkibenu” (Grant us that we lie down in peace) is a lyrical melody, arranged for tenor soloist and strings, which captures the intensity of our request that God would spread over us His shelter of peace.
The assimilation of tunes from secular sources into the liturgy is a Sephardic trademark. The melody of the hymn “Akh Ze haYom Kiviti” (Today I believe) is applied to “Fate onore del bel Purim” (Honor Purim), sung in Judeo-Italian. It reminds us to honor and be happy during the holiday. “Wal Viva Nostro Burino” is a parody mocking Haman and his family. A tarantella praising God for delivering us from oppression ends this setting exultantly: “May God redeem us speedily in our days.”
The composer of the melody of the popular “Psalm 114” (When Israel left the land of Egypt) is unknown, though the contemporary musicologist E. Piatelli believes its origin is modern. The text of “Psalm 150” (Praise God in His sanctuary) is well-known for the numerous musical instruments mentioned. This arrangement reflects the enthusiasm of the lyrics: “Let every breath of life praise God.”
“Psalm 117-8” begins as a free form recitative as we are called upon to praise God. The B section, more lyrical, captures the meaning of the words: “For great is His mercy upon us.” Its melody reminds us of one of the musical motives of La Traviata. It made sense, then, to pair this liturgical poem with the duet “Parigi o cara” from the mentioned opera.
“Ye’idun Yagidun” (Witness, declare as one) is one of the bakkashot, supplications recited on the Sabbath. This melody is also sung by the Spanish Portuguese Jewish community.
“Rachem” (Have mercy upon us) expresses a dramatic petition often sung in Yiddish. For this recording, however, an alternative Italian text was chosen. The singer concludes with the eternal Jewish dream: “Next year in Jerusalem.”
The liturgical poem “Yigdal” (May the living God be magnified and praised) was composed by Judge (14th century). The verses follow Maimonides’ Principles of Faith, but Sephardic Jews include a final verse: “These are the Thirteen Principles, they are the base of divine faith and of Moses’ Torah.”
“Adon ‘Olam” (Master of the Universe) is a poem sung at the conclusion of the morning service for Shabbat and Festivals. The variants of this famous poem fluctuate between ten and sixteen lines.
“Amen Shem Nora” is one of the favorite hymns sung during the holiday celebrations of Simhat Torah. Its energetic rhythm makes it a perfect choice for this joyful occasion.

Natasha Jitomirskaia

MezzoSoprano, Piano, Piano arrangements

Irene Failenbogen

Soprano

Hazzan Raphael Frieder

Baritone

Toby Rotman

Flute

Carl Tretter

Violin

Nicholas Fobe

Viola

John Kaboff

Cello

Jerry Schwartz

Clarinet

Ramón Tasat

Director, Voice, Guitar, Vocal and Instrumental arrangements

Executive Producer: Ramón Tasat
Associate producer: Natasha Jitomirskaia
Recorded at: Gizmo Recording Company and Hyperstudio
Mixed by: Gantt Mann Kushner  & Ramón Tasat
Digital editing & mastering: Bill Wolf at Wolf Productions Inc.
Graphic Design: Estudio Lo Bianco
Photography: Steven Speliotis
Duplication: Sound Recorders Inc., Austin, Texas

Sephardic Songs for All 2000
CD included

The year 1992 marked the quincentennial of the expulsion of the Jewish people from Spain. The world paid tribute to the Sefaradim (Hebrew, Jews of Spanish origin), those silent wanderers who, expelled from their land, held tightly to their cultural heritage, disregarding the many adverse circumstances that befell them along the way.

 SephardicDesp

Track # Title Audio
1 Igdal
2 En keElohenu
Adon ‘Olam 1
Yah Ridon ‘Alam
Igdal Nº 2
3 Yodukha Rayonai
La Ner ve uB’samim
4 Yah Ridon ‘Alam
5 Halelu et Adonai
Pithu u sha’are Tzedek
Odekha ki ‘Anitani
6 Barukh haBa
7 Petakh Lanu Sha’ar
8 Hi Tora Lanu Nitana
9 Coplas de Purim
10 Shuvu laTorah
11 Hija mía-El Adon
12 Adío querida
13 La vida do por el rakí
14 Avre este abajour
15 Si la mar era de leche
16 Una matica de ruda
17 A la una yo nací
18 Como la rosa en la güerta
19 Arvoles lloran por luvia

Excerpt from the foreword of Sephardic songs for all
The year 1992 marked the quincentennial of the expulsion of the Jewish people from Spain. The world paid tribute to the Sefaradim (Hebrew, Jews of Spanish origin), those silent wanderers who, expelled from their land, held tightly to their cultural heritage, disregarding the many adverse circumstances that befell them along the way. The commemorations of 1992 gave impetus to a reawakening of the interest by international Jewry for the Sephardic culture. Sephardic songs for all is a modest contribution geared towards satisfying and stimulating that interest.
Purpose and methodology
This songbook is not a musicological work in the strictest sense of the word. It provides amateurs and professionals alike with songs that everyone can sing. With this objective in mind, I have included selections with a short, melodic range and simple rhythmical patterns. Since this work is aimed towards Westerners, microtonal intervals, especially common in Oriental music, have been avoided. Also, I tried to simplify embellishments wherever they were not an intrinsic part of the melody in question. The metronomic and expression markings are optional. They have been added to help the reader get a better feel for the nature of the songs.
Sephardic music was conceived to be performed a capella, that is, without instrumental accompaniment. Yet, chords have been included here for rehearsal purposes or in case accompaniment is desired. Percussion is strongly encouraged. While this songbook does not include any rhythmical motifs, ideas can be obtained from the accompanying CD.
The Hazzan will find melodies that he/she can introduce during religious services and that are, by and large, eminently participatory. Music teachers may be interested in Judeo-Spanish songs to enhance their repertoire for Shabbat or other significant events, such as commemorations of the Shoa. Musicians of all backgrounds will be exposed to melodies of rare beauty and exciting rhythms that are largely unknown to the outside world and can be arranged successfully for a variety of musical ensembles. The refrains of all songs are indicated in a different font so that even the youngest can participate. Since some of the melodies can be sung to a different text, I have noted them with their counterparts in the table of contents. Hence, a song that shares a common melody is written in italics to the side of a song that was originally composed to that tune.
Translations and explanations
A short explanation of each song precedes the musical manuscripts. A more comprehensive version of the lyrics is provided at the end of the songbook. Complete Hebrew and Ladino texts are also included. However, due to space and layout limitations, shortened versions of lengthier texts were sometimes necessary. For example, the Sephardic versions of “Adon ’Olam” and “Igdal” substitute words or include extra verses not found among Ashkenazic sources.
Oral tradition is the main vehicle for the dissemination of the Judeo-Spanish repertoire. This process has contributed to disparities in the outcome of the texts. Therefore, we find many versions of a particular poem. Frequently, the content of the different stanzas do not follow the main theme of the text. They are, rather, individual couplets often borrowed from another song. We have provided the most complete versions at our disposal but because of the length of some of the ballads and/or the numerous versions in existence, we chose to print those that are the best known among the Sefardim.
Sources
Sephardic songs for all is a cross section of the rich repertoire to which I have been exposed since my childhood at family reunions and through commercial recordings. Most of the Moroccan and Iraqi liturgical examples follow the versions of Rabbi M. Edery and Hazzan G. Mordecai. Other selections are first hand notations from various informants living in Argentina, the United States, Canada and Israel who shared with me their musical traditions.
While working on the lyrics and the musical transcriptions, I have consulted the Antología de Liturgia Judeo-España and Chants Judeo-Espagnols by I. Levy, El Legado Sefaradí by W. Samelson, Chants Séphardis by L. Algazil, Coplas Sefardies by A. Hemsi, Romances de Tetuán by A. de Larrea Palacín, 40 Canciones Sefardís by M. García Morante and Sephardic Songs of Praise by A. Lopez Cardozo, among other sources. For those readers interested in further exploring the Sephardic repertoire, a complete biography as well as suggested reading list is included at the end of the book.
Natasha Jitomirskaia
MezzoSoprano, Piano, Piano arrangements

Irene Failenbogen
Soprano

Hazzan Raphael Frieder
Baritone

Toby Rotman
Flute

Carl Tretter
Violin

Nicholas Fobe
Viola

John Kaboff
Cello

Jerry Schwartz
Clarinet

Ramón Tasat
Director, Voice, Guitar, Vocal and Instrumental arrangements

Executive producer: Ramón Tasat
Associate producer: Natasha Jitomirskaia
Recorded at: Gizmo Recording Company and Hyperstudio
Mixing: Gantt Mann Kushner & Ramón Tasat
Digital editing & mastering: Bill Wolf at Wolf Productions Inc.
Cover design: Bussolati Associates Inc. & Robert B. Lovato
Photography: Steven Speliotis
Duplication: Sound Recorders Inc., Austin, Texas