communities in Holland and Italy, the art music tradition developed more distinctly in Amsterdam’s Portuguese community. Physical evidence is lacking conlthough there are descriptive acco In the 17th and 18th centuries the performance of cantatas became a strong artistic tradition in many European Jewish communities. The term “cantata” denotes a composition with several musical sections, for one or more vocal soloists with instrumental accompaniment and with or without choir. This tradition was prevalent in Italy, southern France and the Netherlands. Jewish cantatas served not to replace the traditional chant of the religious service but were rather an augmentation on special occasions, such as weddings, circumcisions, synagogue inaugurations and other community celebrations.
The Portuguese Jewish Community in Amsterdam was particularly active in the performance of such cantatas. Although there were many direct connections and cultural
exchanges between the Sephardic Jewish unts, no music has survived. From the 18th century, however, we are in possession of actual musical scores. This surviving repertoire is preserved in a number of important music manuscripts in the Ets Haim Library concerning the beginnings of the Jewish cantata form in the 17th century, and af the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. This library protects and preserves the valuable documentation of the long tradition of rites and rituals of this community. The manuscripts contain cantatas for solo voice and instrumental ensemble and liturgical compositions for one, two, three or four voices and ranging
from only basso continuo accompaniment to extensive instrumental ensembles. The main occasions for the performance of these cantatas included Shavuot, Shabbat Bereshit, Simchat Torah and Shabbat Nachamu. This last celebration coincided with the anniversary of the dedication of the Great Synagogue in 1675. Other
celebrations for which works were composed include marriages, a royal visit to the synagogue and the installation
of new cantors.
Besides the anonymous compositions which survive, there are also works by M. Mani, Rathom Abraham, and
Abraham Casseres (the primary composer of the Amsterdam Portuguese Jewish community) and the Italian nonJewish
composer Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti. The compositions of Lidarti have left an especially indelible mark on
the musical repertoire of the Jewish community, enriching the community’s celebrations from generation to