The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Reception of a Biblical Story in Music
Long, Siobhan Dowling
Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2013 pp. xxiii + 280. $95.00
The Bible in the Modern World, 54
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The biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22), or the Akedah in Hebrew tradition, has inspired composers, artists, writers, and dramatists down through the centuries to produce some of the greatest musical, artistic, literary, and dramatic masterpieces the world knows today. This book explores the reception of Genesis 22 in five compositions that not only have been influential in the history of classical art music but also present some of the most insightful and distinctive interpretations of the biblical story. Spanning more than four hundred years, and stemming from a variety of musical genres, the works selected include an oratorio latino by Giacomo Carissimi, the ‘Father of Oratorio’; an oratorio volgare by the Bohemian Josef Myslivecek; a canticle, and a movement from the War Requiem of the eminent British composer Benjamin Britten; and a cantata by the Jewish American composer Judith Lang Zaimont.
Dowling Long argues that, despite intensive exegetical work on Genesis 22 and the attention given to the concept of seeing in the narrative, biblical commentators have generally neglected the concept of hearing, which features prominently in the story’s reception in music.
This book will be of interest to biblical scholars, musicologists, teachers of religious education and music education, as well as to readers interested in reception history. It is beautifully illustrated with 80 images of the sacrifice of Isaac in art, stone, needlework of tapestry and embroidery, and furniture together with photographs of composers and 86 musical excerpts.
Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Other Methods, History of Interpretation
Review by Deborah W. Rooke
Citation: Deborah W. Rooke, review of Siobhan Dowling Long, The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Reception of a Biblical Story in Music, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2015).
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