Sound the Shofar!

An Ancient Instrument in Modern Times

“The sound of the shofar, to me, it’s like a bridge. It’s extremely organic and earthly. Then at the same time, it seems to open up your mind.”
— Miguel Kertsman

“This is hidden in our ancient history, the constant evolving of this deep, dark, and caring sound throughout all types of horns and trumpets and types of instruments.”
— Gergely Sugar

The shofar, a trumpet made from a ram’s horn, has been heard in synagogues all over the world during the Jewish High Holidays since time immemorial. It has also been heard outside those contexts as a call to battle or a way for shepherds to summon their flocks.

The primeval, evocative sounds of the shofar have captivated many classical composers and its powerful influence shows up in places you might not expect. Elgar, Bernstein, Gershwin, and Golijov have all emulated the shofar in their music, and to this day composers continue to be inspired by its sound and history.

Miguel Kertsman’s new Concerto for Violin, Horn, and Shofar showcases this venerable and influential instrument, and provides the centerpiece of the enlightening one-hour special, Sound the Shofar! An Ancient Instrument in Modern Times.

Join us on an aural journey filled with an abundance of musical examples as we hear from Miguel Kertsman and the musicians who brought his Concerto to life.  Composer Osvaldo Golijov and shofar virtuoso Steven Ovitsky provide insightful commentary about the instrument’s cultural, historical, and musical significance, and Jamie Bernstein shares the direct connection between the shofar and the music in Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story.

Sound the Shofar! concludes with a glimpse into Miguel Kertsman’s new composition as he pulls back the curtain on his creative process, revealing the secular motivation that inspired him and the sound world he intended to evoke. The hour finishes with a complete performance of the Concerto from the NAXOS debut recording, featuring Gergely Sugar, horn and shofar; Orsolya Korcsolan, violin; and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.

This special is produced and hosted by WFMT’s award-winning team of Louise Frank and Kerry Frumkin.

Although this special focuses on the secular context of the shofar, this program is an ideal way to herald the Jewish High Holidays (September 30-October 1; October 9, 2019), or at any point during the year.


Category: Documentaries & Profiles
Duration: 1-hour / 59:00
Frequency: 1-part
Availability: 09/01/2019 - 09/30/2020

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