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As the composer of the first musical work to be printed in Hebrew, one of the earliest developers of the trio sonata and the continuo madrigal, and a colleague of Monteverdi and Wert at the ducal court in Mantua, Salomone Rossi was one of the most famous musicians of his generation. Indeed, he was so valued by his employers that he was allowed to appear in public without the orange badge that all Jews of the city had to wear for easy identification.

Despite the obvious regard in which Rossi was held during his lifetime, his renown slipped rapidly after his death. Now Joseph Rochlitz has set out to ‘rediscover’ the composer, travelling to Mantua and interviewing historians and religious leaders, as well as providing a thoughtful narration to the proceedings. The result is one of the best music documentaries I’ve seen.

At the heart of this documentary are performances of Rossi’s music by the all-male vocal ensemble Profeti della Quinta (winners of the 2011 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition) and lutenist Orí Harmelin. Needless to say, the performances are first-rate; especially moving are the scenes in Mantua’s only surviving synagogue and the ensemble’s singing of Hashkivenu in the city’s overgrown Jewish cemetery. More revealing, however, are the conversations with the individual members of the group, particularly with regard to the obvious strength of feeling poured into his sacred Hebrew magnum opus, the Songs of Solomon.

Adrian Horsewood Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing