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Thread: How come Jews are so prominent in classical music?

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    Senior Member Chrythes's Avatar
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    Default How come Jews are so prominent in classical music?

    Heifetz, Itzhak Perlman, Leonard Bernstein, Gil Shaham, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Isaac Stern, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Rubinstein. And I am certain there are many who I forgot. It seems like they are more renowned as musicians and not as composers. Why is that?

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    There is a strong cultural heritage that many Jewish people have with classical music. In fact, one of my favorite latest CD's is an album of purely Jewish songs that Sol Gabetta did.



    This is a most wonderful connection indeed. The same could be said of the strong Asian presence in the classical music world too.

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    How come Germans, Russians, Spaniards, French, Hungarians, etc., are so prominent in classical music? Jews are no more prominent in CM than countless others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrythes View Post
    Heifetz, Itzhak Perlman, Leonard Bernstein, Gil Shaham, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Isaac Stern, Arnold Schoenberg, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Rubinstein. And I am certain there are many who I forgot. It seems like they are more renowned as musicians and not as composers. Why is that?

    I would have thought that Mendelssohn, Offenbach, Mahler, Zemlinsky, Schoenberg, Bloch, Finzi, Milhaud, Schnittke, Glass, Reich, Kurtag, and Ligeti were considered widely to be composers of renown, no?
    Last edited by TurnaboutVox; Mar-20-2015 at 19:33.

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    Senior Member Ingélou's Avatar
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    The OP makes me think of Max Jaffa's entertaining autobiography 'My Life on the Fiddle', where he says that violinists are always 'short, tubby and - well - Jewish!'

    I think it's just a social custom thing - Jewish families in the past have been very aspirational in regard to bringing up children to play the violin, as are some other groups today, like the Chinese - I'm thinking 'Tiger Mother'.
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    The OP makes me think of Max Jaffa's entertaining autobiography 'My Life on the Fiddle', where he says that violinists are always 'short, tubby and - well - Jewish!'

    I think it's just a social custom thing - Jewish families in the past have been very aspirational in regard to bringing up children to play the violin, as are some other groups today, like the Chinese - I'm thinking 'Tiger Mother'.
    Not so sure. Many families (Jewish and otherwise) forbidden their children from seeking professions in music.
    David A. Hollingsworth (dholling)

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    Gilels, Serkin, Szell, Walter, Grumiaux, Szeryng, Oistrach, Argerich, Kogan, Klemperer, Lupu, Barenboim, Vengerov, Bell, Maazel, Perahia, Anda, Schneiderhan, Hoenstein, Grimaud, Berman, Solti, Glass, Feldman, Starker, Krips, Gould, Eschenbach, Schiff, Fleischer..............
    Last edited by Itullian; Mar-20-2015 at 19:58.
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    Senior Member Simon Moon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morimur View Post
    How come Germans, Russians, Spaniards, French, Hungarians, etc., are so prominent in classical music? Jews are no more prominent in CM than countless others.
    The entire Jewish population of the world is about 15 million.

    The population of Germany alone is 80 million, not including Jews. France 66 million, Spain 44 million.

    Jews make up about .25% of the world's population. It would seem that they do make up a substantially larger % of classical musicians than would be expected by their population.

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    How come there are not more Irish drunks in classical music?

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    Senior Member Chrythes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingélou View Post
    The OP makes me think of Max Jaffa's entertaining autobiography 'My Life on the Fiddle', where he says that violinists are always 'short, tubby and - well - Jewish!'

    I think it's just a social custom thing - Jewish families in the past have been very aspirational in regard to bringing up children to play the violin, as are some other groups today, like the Chinese - I'm thinking 'Tiger Mother'.
    And pianists always have big noses.

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    Senior Member Chrythes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morimur View Post
    How come Germans, Russians, Spaniards, French, Hungarians, etc., are so prominent in classical music? Jews are no more prominent in CM than countless others.
    Of course, but the fact is that there are only 15 million Jews in the world and they still quite dominate and have dominated classical music.

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    Senior Member Albert7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrythes View Post
    Of course, but the fact is that there are only 15 million Jews in the world and they still quite dominate and have dominated classical music.
    I am curious... is this "domination" more prominent during modern times, say, the 19th and 20th centuries rather than the early period of music, say, Renaissance or Baroque times?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Albert7 View Post
    I am curious... is this "domination" more prominent during modern times, say, the 19th and 20th centuries rather than the early period of music, say, Renaissance or Baroque times?
    Yes, it's definitely more prominent in modern times. Jews were too busy being persecuted in earlier centuries to take up careers as musicians. Also I believe there weren't many careers for Jews as church composers back then.
    And there probably would be even more Jews in 20th-century music if fewer of them had been murdered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    How come there are not more Irish drunks in classical music?
    It's hard to perform music when you've got a pig under your arm!

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    Turnaboutvox's list left out Meyerbeer, Halevy and Hahn, and probably others!

    I don't know whether Jewish people are overrepresented among great musicians and high achievers generally- maybe they are- but if there seem to have been a lot of great Jewish musicians historically, it could be because there were many more European Jews (musicians and otherwise) before the war than there are today. So it's possibly not so much a case of today's small Jewish population producing so many talented people, but rather a much larger historical Jewish population producing them.

    Edit: I see Nereffid made the point I was trying to make a couple of posts back, and put it more clearly than I did.
    Last edited by Figleaf; Mar-20-2015 at 20:00.

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