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Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen


Francesco Spagnolo

Jews & Music Scholar-in-Residence

Jonathan Cohen


Jews & Music

Since its inception in 2015, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale’s Jews & Music initiative has taken audiences on journeys of discovery that deepen connections for Jews and non-Jews to historical, political and social contexts that inform the creation of music. Philharmonia is the only major American orchestra with a permanent initiative dedicated to exploring the relationship between Jews and music from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

Jews & Music (JAM) is a continuous exploration that probes the rich legacies of Jewish composers and performers; non-Jews who worked with Jews or drew inspiration from them; the socio-political milieu they inhabited; and Jewish themes that have emerged across music and visual art over time. Programs illuminate the achievements of Jewish composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, as well as those who were obscured by time and persecution, such as Salamone Rossi and Ignaz Moscheles. Canonical oratorios by George Frideric Handel gain historical heft and depth when revisited with insightful analysis of his scriptural sources and the social forces that supported his music. Rare gems of the repertoire that draw inspiration from Jewish culture, such as Maurice Ravel, a non-Jew who wrote one of the most famous adaptations of the Kaddish, shines a light on the inspiration of Jewish history, heritage and music.

JAM’s unique programs bring together dynamic musical performances and conversations in a deep dive into the arts and history. Events are presented in a multimedia format that connects major conductors, guest artists and scholars, with audiences. Each program provides for audience participation and a wine reception with the artists and scholars. Over the past five years, Music Director Laureate Nicholas McGegan has led these vital programs; Music Director Richard Egarr and other major artists will participate in future years. JAM also maintains its own Scholar-in-Residence, Francesco Spagnolo, curator of the Magnes Collection at UC Berkeley. He participates in and moderates every program.

JAM is woven into the fabric of all of Philharmonia’s artistry, and serves as a platform to collaborate with peer organizations and commission new works that are Jewishly-inspired. JAM has become very popular and the programs have taken place throughout the Bay Area and across the country, with plans underway for appearances in New York and in Europe.

Jews & Music receives vital support from:

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

The Koret Foundation

The Marmor Foundation

Gaia Fund

Presenting Partners

Stanford Live

San Francisco Jewish Community Center

The Magnes Collection
at UC Berkeley

Harvard University

Yale University

Oshman Family JCC

Contemporary Jewish Museum

University of Chicago

American Modern Opera Company (AMOC)

Dartmouth College

Upcoming Jews & Music Events

Sunday, November 17, 2024 | 2:30 P.M.
Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco

Bach, Bloch, and Beyond

Jews & Music returns this season with a musical conversation between world-renowned Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital and Philharmonia Scholar in Residence Francesco Spagnolo. Expect a riveting performance of solo and chamber music, punctuated by a conversation on the many musical worlds that intersect one another in Avital’s innovative approach to Baroque music.

Avi Avital mandolin
Francesco Spagnolo Scholar in Residence
Philharmonia Chamber Players
Learn More