Bloch, Schoenberg and Bernstein - Assimilating Jewish Music 
David Schiller
, University of Georgia
Oxford University Press, December 2002
ISBN: 0-19-816711-3
240 pages, 216mm x 138mm
  • 1 Ernest Bloch's 'Sacred Service'
  • 2 Arnold Schoenberg's 'A Survivor from Warsaw'
  • 3 Leonard Bernstein's 'Kaddish'
   David Schiller's study of three works of Jewish music - Ernest Bloch's "Sacred Service" (1933), Arnold Schoenberg's "A Survivor from Warsaw" (1947), and Leonard Bernstein's "Kaddish" (1963) -  reveals how, in the mid-twentieth century, the problem of assimilation was acutely felt as the unfinished business of European Jewry, at a time when American Jewry was creating its own distinctive culture (albeit with European roots). 
   He shows how the business of 'assimilating Jewish music' is as much a process audiences themselves engage in when they listen to Jewish music as it is something critics and musicologists do when they write about it. He reveals how this process of assimilation is performed by the music itself - that Jewish music assimilates into the Western tradition of art music when it appears in the form of concert genres like the oratorio, cantata, and symphony. This incisive study sheds new light on an important aspect of the cultural and aesthetic achievements of these seminal Jewish composers. In rethinking the Jewish works of Bloch, Schoenberg, and Bernstein as part of the legacy of assimilation, David Schiller sheds light on an important aspect of their cultural and aesthetic achievements. 
 ABSTRACT: In Modernity and Ambivalence, Zyg munt Bauman writes: "Once the drama of assimilation is over (or, rather, where it is over), so is the story of a
 uniquely creative and original Jewish cultural role." This dissertation examines three examples of Jewish creativity in the context of the dra ma of assimilation: Ernest
 Bloch's Sacred Service, Arnold Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw, and Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish. These works are situated on the assimilatory frontier of
 Jewish musical tradition. Between the early 1930s, when Bloch composed the Sacred Service, and the early 1960s, when Bernstein composed Kaddish, the
 frontier itself was first sealed off, and then redefined and remapped by the Holocaust. Sacred Service, Survivor, and Kaddish follow the line of this frontier from its
 demarcat ion amid the pressures of 19th-century European nationalism, to its dissolution in American postmodernism. 

 The shifting line of the frontier also defines the horizon of expectations for these three works and helps account for their very different ae sthetics. The aesthetics of
 Bloch's Sacred Service, discussed in the first chapter of the dissertation, are those of European musical nationalism, especially as represented by Wagner. Though
 Bloch dreamed of new forms and new means of expression, his Sacr ed Service is a monument of post-Romantic choral music, untouched by the Holocaust in its
 composition, and resistant to modernism in its aesthetics. 

 Schoenberg's Survivor, discussed in Chapter II, reasserts the aesthetics of classical modernism. It functions as a twofold manifesto, first for the survival of the
 Jewish people, second for the survival of its own aesthetics as both Jewish and modern. 

 Finally, Bernstein's Kaddish, discussed in Chapter III, embraces the absence of a unified moderni st aesthetic. As the product of a post-Holocaust sensibility and a
 postmodernist aesthetic, it concerns itself with the problem of individual Jewish identity. 

 Aesthetically, then, Sacred Service, Survivor, and Kaddish, represent the pre-modernist, m odernist, and postmodernist states of assimilating Jewish music.
 Historically they situate themselves around the crisis of the Shoah, and from the perspective of the present, their reception, too, is largely determined by their
 relationship to the Holocaust.