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Kol Nidrei (Bruch)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kol Nidrei
by Max Bruch
Other nameAll Vows
PeriodClassical music
GenreRomantic music
Based on
ScoringCello and Orchestra
Performed by the chamber orchestra of the United States Marine Band, 2013

Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 (also known as All Vows, the meaning of the phrase in Aramaic), is a composition for cello and orchestra written by Max Bruch.


Bruch completed the work in Liverpool, England, in 1880,[1][2]: 100  and published it in Berlin in 1881.[3][4] It was dedicated to and premiered by Robert Hausmann, who later co-premiered Johannes Brahms's Double Concerto with Joseph Joachim, the dedicatee of Bruch's most famous work, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Hausmann had requested such a cello work from Bruch.[2]: 170 

The use of Jewish folk music as an inspiration has been seen as a reflection of the extent of Jewish assimilation into Germany by some academics.[1] Many also mistakenly believed that Bruch was Jewish as a result of this piece, despite the composer actively working to correct that mistake in his own lifetime.[5]

After his Violin Concerto No. 1, the Kol Nidrei is Bruch's second most frequently performed piece.[6]


It is styled as an Adagio on 2 Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra with Harp and consists of a series of variations on two main themes of Jewish origin.[4] The first theme, which also lends the piece its title, comes from the Kol Nidre declaration, which is recited during the evening service on Yom Kippur. In Bruch's setting of the melody, the cello imitates the rhapsodic voice of the cantor who chants the liturgy in the synagogue. The second subject of the piece is quoted from the middle section of Isaac Nathan's arrangement of "O Weep for Those that Wept on Babel's Stream", a lyric which was penned by Lord Byron in his collection Hebrew Melodies (which also includes the famous poem "She Walks in Beauty").[6][7][8]

Bruch was a Protestant[2]: 109  and first became acquainted with the Kol Nidrei melody when his teacher Ferdinand Hiller introduced him to the Lichtenstein family, the head of which served as the cantor-in-chief of Berlin. Cantor Abraham Jacob Lichtenstein was known to have cordial relations with many Christian musicians and supported Bruch's interest in Jewish folk music. While some commentators, including Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, have criticized the lack of Jewish sentiment in Bruch's concert-hall Kol Nidrei, Bruch never presumed to write Jewish music. He only wished to incorporate Jewish inspirations into his own compositions.[9]

Even though I am a Protestant, as an artist I deeply felt the outstanding beauty of these melodies and therefore I gladly spread them through my arrangement (taken from a letter written by Bruch)... In his presentation, the melody entirely lost its original character. Bruch displayed a fine art, masterly technique and fantasy, but not Jewish sentiments. It is not a Jewish Kol-Nidre which Bruch composed. (Idelsohn, from Jewish Music in its Historic Development, 1929)[9]

The work is scored for solo cello, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, harp and strings.[3]


  1. ^ a b Amanda Borschel-Dan. "How the haunting Kol Nidre melody harnessed the power to convert". www.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  2. ^ a b c Fifield, Christopher (2005). Max Bruch: His Life and Works. Boydell Press. ISBN 9781843831365. Retrieved 20 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Kol Nidrei, Op.47 (Bruch, Max)". imslp.org. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  4. ^ a b Fifield, Christopher (2001), "Bruch, Max", Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.04122, ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0, retrieved 2021-06-10
  5. ^ Fifield, Christopher (1987-01-01). "Max Bruch". Jewish Quarterly. 34 (3): 39–41. doi:10.1080/0449010X.1987.10703773 (inactive 31 January 2024). ISSN 0449-010X.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  6. ^ a b "Max Bruch: Kol Nidrei". Classic FM. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  7. ^ Bruch's Kol nidrei. Dover. 1996. ISBN 978-0-486-29039-3.
  8. ^ Rubinstein, Anat (September 17, 2018). "The majesty and the mystery of Kol Nidre". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  9. ^ a b Max Bruch, Kol Nidrei chazzanut.com, accessed 9 June 2019

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