Born into a Jewish family from Eastern Europe in 1960 in La Plata, Argentina, Osvaldo Golijov had his whole childhood and musical education steeped in Judaic liturgies and klezmer and traditional music.
Some eight hundred years ago, Isaac the Blind – who was the greatest Cabalist rabbi of Provence – dictated a manuscript in which he declared that everything in the universe, each thing and each event, was the product of combinations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Inspired by this text, this quintet for clarinet and string quartet was first performed in 1994 by the great klezmer clarinetist Giora Feidman.
The three pieces making up From Jewish Life were composed in 1924 by Ernest Bloch for Hans Kindler, solo cello of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, who had given the first performance of the famous 'Hebrew rhapsody' Schelomo for cello and orchestra. Abodah, the arrangement of a Yom Kippur melody, premiered in 1929 by the young Yehudi Menuhin, was composed from one of the sketches made by Bloch for his opera on Jezebel.
These two works clearly illustrate this quotation by Ernest Bloch: 'There will be Jewish rhapsodies for orchestra, Jewish poems, especially dramas; poems for voice of which I don't have the lyric, but which I would want in Hebrew.