(1791 - 1864)
Few composers in the nineteenth century attained greater
popular success than Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864). Son of a banker,
who was Berlin's wealthiest Jew, and a mother of culture and religious
commitment, Jacob (as he was then called) showed musical genius early.
Among the manuscripts in the Music Division is an early work of Meyerbeer
in his own hand, Hallelujah, Eine Cantatine fur 4 Mannerstimmen
mit Begleitung einer Obligaten Orgel und der Chores ad libitum von J.
Meyerbeer (Hallelujah, A Cantatine for 4 Male Voices with Organ
Accompaniment and by Choir ad libitum, by J. Meyerbeer). A note on the
title page adds: "Original manuscript unpublished," and so it remains
to the present day. An unpublished manuscript by the leading nineteenth-century
Jewish composer is an important item of Judaica, as is a piece of his
religious music. But is it also a Jewish composition in content?
No author is listed, but a reading of the text discovers
neither christological words nor allusions. The Grove Dictionary
of Music lists it among Meyerbeer's works as "autograph Us Wc,"
i.e., a manuscript at the Library of Congress, and provides us with
some important information. It attributes the text to "E. Kley" who
is, of course, Edward Kley, one of the earliest Reform Jewish preachers
and a writer of hymns. The text is a series of doxologies:
Holy, holy, holy
Holy thou art-Thy name is Holy.
Splendid and great in your works,
All call upon you in awe Hallelujah!
Oh thou who wast born of dust, a dove
The Holy One who appears in myriads of suns!
Stand silent in astonishment; Adore in prayer,
It goes on for three more verses. The first two verses
Kley used again in a hymn published in the Allgemeines Israelitisches
Gesangbuch, Hamburg, 1833, where the last stanzas differ from those
in the Library's manuscript.
A signed, unpublished, holograph musical manuscript by Giacomo Meyerbeer, Hallelujah, for
four male voices with organ accompaniment, written to be sung at a service of the Berlin Jewish
Reform Temple housed in the Meyerbeer home. The words are by Edward Kley, tutor of the
Meyerbeer children and preacher at the temple.
E. Kley and G. Meyerbeer, Hallelujah, Berlin, 1815? Music Division.
Edward Kley (1789-1867), born in Silesia, educated
in Breslau, served as a tutor in the Beer* household
from 1807 to 1817, at the same time acting as one of the preachers of
the private Reform Temple in the home
of early Reform leader Israel Jacobson. Meyerbeer, who was only two
years younger, became his friend. For lack of space, the temple, with
Kley as minister, was, in 1815, moved into the Beer home. By that time,
Meyerbeer had already left Berlin to continue his musical studies in
Darmstadt and in Paris. Among the letters from Kley to Meyerbeer, one
dated October 31, 1815, reads in part, "Your Hallelujah, or better,
our Hallelujah, has not been heard yet, for lack of a decent organ."
The "Hallelujah" was probably prepared for use at the inaugural, or
an early service of the temple in the Beer home. The manuscript is perhaps
the earliest Reform liturgical composition extant, a work which throws important light on the beginnings
of Reform Judaism's liturgical creativity.
*Born Jakob Liebmann Beer, he changed his name to Meyerbeer to fulfill the condition set by his
grandfather, Liebmann Meyer Wulf, that he add "Meyer" to his name to become his sole
Sources: Abraham J. Karp, From
the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress,
(DC: Library of Congress, 1991).