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"Break Forth in Melody & Song": Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

(1895 - 1968)

Son of an old Florentine Jewish family, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) left Italy in 1939 to escape the recently enacted racial laws. One of the leading Italian composers of his day, he was drawn more and more to the music of his Jewish heritage, a spiritual and artistic journey begun in 1925, when he found in his grandfather's house a manuscript notebook of Jewish melodies. Like Ernest Bloch, he came to the United States and, among many other works on Jewish themes, composed a Sacred Service (1943). Among his manuscripts deposited in the Music Division are two liturgical works: Lecho Dodi, the opening hymn of the Sabbath eve service, a welcome to the Sabbath Bride, written in 1937 for the Amsterdam Synagogue and dedicated "To the everliving memory of my Mother," and a Memorial Service for the Departed (1960), "in memory of Lina Castelnuovo."

This music for Lecho Dodi, a song of welcome to "Bride Sabbath" at the Sabbath eve service, for cantor solo and mixed choir (organ ad libitum), was composed for the Amsterdam synagogue in 1937, and is dedicated by the composer "to the ever living memory of my Mother."

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Lecho Dodi, Amsterdam, 1937. Music Division.

Sources: Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, (DC: Library of Congress, 1991).