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In 2015, Philharmonia launched its Jews & Music Initiative – a permanent effort to explore and understand the relationship between Jews and music from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

The initiative brings Jewish historical context to a range of classical music including:

  • The works of Salomone Rossi, Monteverdi and the Jews of 17thcentury Italy;
  • An exploration of George Frideric Handel and his relationship to the Jews of London and the major Jewish biblical figures that feature in his works;
  • Later composers such as Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn, Maurice Ravel and Ignaz Moscheles; and
  • The experience and heritage of contemporary Jewish musicians, such as acclaimed cellist Steven Isserlis.

Philharmonia’s Jews & Music Initiative also embraces new works rooted in the Jewish experience, with a new commission in 2020 featuring a cantata by young, acclaimed composer Matthew Aucoin, set to text by German language poet and Holocaust survivor Paul Celan, whose parents died in the camps.

The initiative provides opportunities for significant collaboration with SFJCC, the Jewish Contemporary Museum, Oshman JCC, and The Magnes Collection at UC Berkeley, among others. In 2016, Harvard and Yale universities invited PBO to present “Jews of the 17th Century Italian Jewish Ghetto” featuring works by Salomone Rossi and Monteverdi. The program will be reprised at the University of Chicago in April 2018.

PBO Music Director Nicholas McGegan is known worldwide for his work with both period instrument and modern orchestras and he champions new music as a way to understand the music of the past. As a foremost scholar on Handel and with deep knowledge of early and later Jewish composers and musicians, McGegan is uniquely suited to explore the interwoven context of social and political considerations surrounding Jews and music.


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2017/18 J.A.M. PROGRAMS

Generously Sponsored By

Dr. Ross E. Armstrong &
Jonas (Jay) K. Stern
Jews & Music Fund

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Presenting Partners:

San Francisco Jewish Community Center

The Magnes Collection
at UC Berkeley

Harvard University

Yale University

Oshman Family JCC

Jewish Contemporary Museum

University of Chicago

American Modern Opera Company (AMOC)

Program 1

Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren
San Francisco Bay Area
December 14-17, 2017

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Philharmonia has performed more of Handel’s oratorios than any period instrument orchestra, and Nic McGegan is internationally known for his interpretation of these monumental works. Joseph and his Brethren is new to our repertoire and tells the Biblical story of Joseph and his reconciliation with his Jewish family in Egypt. It gives Handel the opportunity to depict the grandeur of Pharoah’s court and the faith of Joseph’s estranged brothers in a plot of intrigue and mistaken identity. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to hear this dramatic work, rarely performed since Handel’s lifetime, in a definitive performance led by Nic McGegan with our Orchestra, Chorale, and a superb cast of soloists.

HANDEL Joseph and his Brethren, HWV 59

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Sherezade Panthaki, soprano
Gabrielle Haigh, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
Abigail Levis, mezzo-soprano
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Philip Cutlip, baritone
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director


Thursday December 14, 2017 @ 7:00 pm | Herbst Theatre, San Francisco
Friday December 15, 2017 @ 7:30 pm | First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto
Saturday December 16, 2017 @ 7 pm |First Congregational Church, Berkeley
Sunday December 17, 2017 @ 4 pm |First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Single tickets available at City Box Office August 1, 2017

Subscribe to the 2017/18 Season here.


Program 2
with Steven Isserlis
Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF
February 8, 2018

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Performed at the Jewish Contemporary Museum, the 90-minute program will feature renowned cellist Steven Isserlis performing rare works from Jewish composers including a work from Isserlis’s ancestor Ignaz (Isaac) Moscheles, “Kaddisch” from Maurice Ravel’s Deux mélodies hébraïque and Symphony No. 8 by Sir William Herschel, whose father was Jewish.

Steven Isserlis and Nicholas McGegan will engage in deep discussion about the impact of these Jewish composers, illuminated by a multimedia presentation, as well as Steven’s own Jewish heritage. This exciting program will be moderated by KDFC’s on-air host Hoyt Smith.  After the concert, audience members will be able to ask questions and meet with the musicians at a complimentary wine reception.

RAVEL Deux mélodies hébraïques (arr. for Isserlis)
MOSCHELES Ten Preludes from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier with cello part, Op. 137
HERSCHEL Symphony No. 8 in C minor


Tuesday, February 8, 2018 | 8 pm
Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco
Tickets: $25 General Admission

Tickets on sale at City Box Office August 1, 2017.
PBO Subscribers can purchase PBO SESSIONS tickets early, starting June 1, 2017.


Program 3
Salomone Rossi: Baroque Music from Jewish Mantova
University of Chicago
April 8, 2018

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Salomone Rossi: Baroque Music from Jewish Mantova is an interactive concert on the life and music of this Italian Jewish composer.  The program includes sacred Hebrew psalms, secular madrigals, instrumental trio sonatas, dances, and more.  Music director Nicholas McGegan and Francesco Spagnolo, a scholar on early Italian Jewish history, will take you through the life of Salomone Rossi and how he shaped the culture in Mantua and Venice for Jews and non-Jews alike.

Soprano Sherezade Panthaki will portray Rossi’s sister Madama Europa, an opera singer who premiered the soprano roles some of Monteverdi’s great opera works.

ROSSI Correnta sesta, Book III
ROSSI Sonata quarta sopra l’aria de Ruggierio, Book III
ROSSI “Pargoletta che non sai” from Madrigaletti
ROSSI “Lemi ‘ehpots” (Wedding ode)


Sunday, April 8, 2018 | University of Chicago

Ticket information available soon.

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