Jacob Weinberg

Jacob Weinberg (7 July 1879 – 2 November 1956) was a Russian-born Jewish composer and pianist who composed over 135 works for piano and other instruments. He was one of the founders of the Jewish National Conservatory in Jerusalem before immigrating to the U.S. where he became "an influential voice in the promotion of American Jewish music" from the 1940s until his death.[1]

Life and career

Weinberg was born in Odessa, Ukraine, to Dora and Wolf Weinberg, a middle-class family. His father was a merchant and his uncle was Peter Weinberg, a prominent translator of Shakespeare and Heine into Russian. Jacob completed law school at Moscow University, but he never practiced, preferring his piano studies. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory of Music under many prominent teachers including Taneyev and Ippolito-Ivanov and studied composition for a year in Vienna, under Sergei Taneyev.[2]

Weinberg toured Russia as a pianist and also toured with Emil Rosenoff in their two-piano concerts from 1912–1916. He adapted Rachmaninoff's works to create a two-piano piece he called Rachmaniana. It was published and performed by Weinberg and Rosenoff. He was also very interested in preserving the unique melodies and music scales of Jewish religious and secular folk tunes. When the St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Folk Music was formed in 1908 by Joel Engel, Lazare Saminsky, and others, Jacob Weinberg and his Moscow-based peers formed the Moscow branch of this society.[3] Then he returned to Odessa, where he taught at the Odessa Conservatory of Music.

With the advent of the Bolshevik Revolution, Weinberg spent two months in prison and then fled with his wife Theresa (née Bernstein) and his only child, a son, Walter, in 1922 to Palestine (now Israel). There he composed the first Hebrew opera, The Pioneers (Hechalutz). It won First Prize in an international composition contest, sponsored by the Philadelphia Sesquicentennial. There was a performance in Jerusalem in April, 1925. With the prize money of $1500, he took his family to New York.[4]

Weinberg produced concert versions of his opera The Pioneers at Carnegie Hall in 1941 and 1947, and at the Mecca Temple (now New York City Center) in the 1930s. In addition, there was a performance in Berlin, Germany in the 1930s, by the Kulturbund, the soprano Mascha Benya in one of the leading roles. It was performed in a synagogue since the Nazis, coming to power, banned Jewish works, even masterpieces, from being performed in a proper concert hall.[2]

His many other works include religious Jewish works; he set the Sabbath service to music in several versions. These works are still performed at Temple Emanu-el, a prominent Reform synagogue in Manhattan.[5] He also composed many non-religious works. He was very interested in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and set it to music for a chorus and in three other non-singing versions.[6][2] Aaron Copland attended one of the Lincoln concerts prior to composing his own Lincoln Portrait.[7]

He joined the music faculty of the New York College of Music in 1929 where he taught for many years and later joined the faculty at Hunter College.[2] Weinberg died of lung disease in New York on November 2, 1956 at the age of 77.


  • Hechalutz (The Pioneers of Palestine) – Opus 18
  • Isaiah – An Oratorio
  • Moses – An Oratorio
  • Concerto #2 in C Major
  • String Quartet – Opus 55
  • I See A New America
  • Taps
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls
  • Gettysburg Address – 4 versions
  • Romanze
  • Jacob's Dream

Sonata in E-Flat Major Speed Ahead- Full Gallop The Cabalist Sabbath Service Sabbath Morning Service Sabbath Evening Service Canzonetta - Klezmer The Maypole - Klezmer Rabbi Meir's Dance Rachmaniana (for Two Pianos) And many more; also see Milken Archives recordings of Jacob Weinberg's music on the Naxos Label


  1. von Rhein, John (19 August 2005). "Jacob Weinberg: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Major". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Levin, Neil M. Biography: Jacob Weinberg 1879–1956. Milken Archive. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  3. Jewish Telegraphic Agency (5 November 1956). "Dr. Jacob Weinberg, Noted Jewish Composer, Dies in New York". Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  4. Congregation Emanu-El of New York. Composers. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  5. Kernan, Thomas J. (7 November 2013). "Setting Gettysburg: Jewish-American Identity in Jacob Weinberg’s Lincoln Commemorations". American Musicological Society Annual Meeting, Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  6. Pollack, Howard (2000). Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man, p. 358. University of Illinois Press,

Further Sources

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