— Bibliographic Items

Jewish Music in its Historical Development

Material Type: 
Henry Holt
Place of Publication: 
New York

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This entry is part of an online exhibit entitled: "Hava Nagila: From Idelsohn to Belafonte & Beyond," prepared by Eva Heinstein with help from the JMRC staff. To view the exhibit in its entirety click on the link above.

Jewish Music in its Historical Development is one of Idelsohn's most widely known works and still a classic in the field of Jewish music. The objectives, as stated in the preface, are similar to those of his previous works: (1) "to give a description and an analysis of the elements and characteristics of Jewish music, in their historical development, from the earliest times of its appearance as a Semitic-Oriental song, throughout the ages and countries"; (2) "to point out the influence that the foreign music of the environment exerted upon Jewish music, and seek to explain the principles according to which certain foreign elements were incorporated until they became organic parts of the musical body"; (3) to show that "in this music we find original elements and features, reflecting the spiritual life of the Jewish people." These objectives may be regarded as the guiding principles of Idelsohn's entire life's work.



In Arbie Orenstein's introduction to the latest edition of A.Z. Idelsohn’s "Jewish Music in Its Historical Development," he presents conflicting claims to the authorship of Hava Nagila's Hebrew lyrics. Idelsohn and his pupil Cantor Moshe Nathanson both claim responsibility for the songs musical structure and text. Nathanson’s perspective is primarily advanced by author Sheldon Feinberg in his book, “Song without words: The life of Israel’s Sweetest Singer—Moshe Nathanson.”