The Lyric Bass III Mediterranean

Document Sample
The Lyric Bass III Mediterranean Powered By Docstoc
					The Lyric Bass III: Mediterranean Mingle
Presented by Ron Merhavi Tonight’s performance marks the final among three dissertation recitals, sharing the thread ―The Lyric Bass.‖ The dissertation illustrates the role of lyricism in double bass playing. All three recital programs carry the following objectives:  Exercise full musical, analytical and technical skills of the instrument and its player  Explore contemporary double bass music outside the standard repertoire; compositions that meet high standards of musicality, lyricism, and expressiveness  Present vocal music, transcribed from the human voice for the voice of the double bass, in its full range  Communicate with other musicians in chamber settings, taking advantage of the natural cooperation among University of Michigan School of Music student musicians. The third recital incorporates music from the Mediterranean area, music which is a mingling of folk and art, flavored with Western-European and Middle-Eastern spices. In a sense, this recital is a reference to the two previous dissertation recitals. Composer Yehezkel Braun was born in Germany, and his Sonata for Bass and Piano derives from the traditional forms such as sonata form (first movement) and theme and variations (third movement), therefore he may be connected to the second recital, Mostly German. Concepts such as ―mirroring between the musical instruments‖ and ―fluid material‖ place André Hajdu’s Shadows and Echoes for Double Bass and Small Ensemble in the same basket with other pieces performed on the first recital, Intellectual Mood. Tonight, rather than having cooperative singers on stage, the double bass is the vocalist. It performs the leading voice role in selected songs.

André Hajdu was born in Hungary in 1932. He studied at the Liszt Music Academy in Budapest with Szervanszky and Szabo (composition), Szegedi (piano) and Zoltán Kodály (ethnomusicology). Hajdu researched Gypsy musical culture and published several articles on this subject. In 1956 he moved to Paris, continuing his studies at the Conservatoire with Darius Milhaud (composition) and Olivier Messiaen (philosophy of music). Since 1966, Hajdu has been living in Jerusalem. He had taught at the Tel-Aviv Music Academy as well as Bar-Ilan University, serving in the latter as head of the Music Department and founder of the Composition Department. Hajdu published articles and CDs dealing with Klezmer and Hassidic Music. His transcriptions and arrangements of this repertoire have inspired some of his works, such as Truath Melekh, a rhapsody on Jewish themes for clarinet and strings (1974). As a composer, Hajdu is deeply involved in Jewish topics, not only on the usual folkloristic or liturgical levels, but also on broader aspects of Jewish thought (oral law, philosophical books of the Bible) as well as Jewish history. For example, the composer had set text and music to a cantata, describing the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain, entitled Dreams of Spain (1991). Hajdu’s unique Jewish thought merges ancient roots with a modern, personal concept. A great deal of Hajdu’s output is artistic piano pedagogy works, among them Milky Way (Hajdu’s own

1976 take on Mikrokosmos), and a concerto for 10 young pianists (1977). All this is connected with the practice of creative teaching in the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem, an experimental school for new approaches to music teaching. In 1997, Hajdu obtained the Israel Prize for his oeuvre in composition, research and teaching. Commissioning Shadows and Echoes for Double Bass and Small Ensemble was made possible through the support of the Yehoshua Rabinowitz Foundation for the Arts, TelAviv. Here are Hajdu’s program notes of Shadows and Echoes: “In periods of intense activity I am awakened every night around 2.30a.m. by an overwhelming flow of musical ideas which already began during the sleep. From there I turn in the bed, shaping these ideas and trembling to forget them. But their splendor vanishes usually with the daylight, leaving only a residue, which is not always interesting. From hundreds of such residues came out this piece. Sometimes I get up and try to record them hastily. From these night-sketches, which look more like designs than musical notations, I could make an impressive exhibition. They are written with pencils of different colors representing each one a different instrument. But I had to write a musical piece with an inner logic and a narrative, which could be followed by the listener and this was particularly arduous that time: the material was too fluid and strongly resisted my efforts to reduce it to a linear succession of events. From these apparitions, I finally kept four very different “scenes,” which develop from the fluid towards the concrete. As for Ron Merhavi, my former student who commissioned this piece for his diplomarecital, I think he had something simpler in mind: a work, which would show the possibilities of the lyric bass as it developed in the last 40 years, almost a new instrument. He sent me an up-to-date literature from Anderson to Henze and Rautavaara and I tried hard to assimilate these techniques. The outcome could be described as a bridge between the weightless daydreaming of the ensemble and the concreteness of the bass solo. The instruments– as heterogeneous as flute (four sizes), trumpet, accordion, bass clarinet, harp, viola and percussion (without drums)– weave a colored texture around the meditative obligato of the double bass, written in a complex and demanding, but not virtuoso fashion. Yet this relationship changes for each movement. The title of the piece expresses a kind of mirroring between the instruments: an idea appearing in an instrument is usually followed by an echo or shadow of it in the others. The double bass/piccolo duet in the third movement is a slightly changed version of a movement in my Light and Depth (1985).” From the age of two Yehezkel Braun, born 1922, was brought up in Israel, in close contact with Jewish and East-Mediterranean traditional music. The influence of this background is clearly felt in his compositions. He is a graduate of the Israel Academy of Music, and later became the head of this institute. Braun also holds a Master's degree in Classical Studies from Tel-Aviv University. In 1975, he studied Gregorian chant with choir director Dom Jean Claire at the Benedictine monastery St. Pierre de Solesmes in France. Braun’s main academic interests are traditional Jewish melodies and Gregorian chant. He has lectured on these and other subjects, at universities and congresses in England, France, the United States, Germany, Italy and Israel. Braun’s music emphasizes melodic-modal elements rather than sheer harmony; the latter is for the most

part an outcome of the melodic lines and voice leading. 1 Compositions by Yehezkel Braun include choral works a capella and with orchestral or chamber combinations, songs with piano or other instrumental combinations, sonatas, chamber and orchestral works, music for film, television, theater and ballet and arrangements of traditional Jewish melodies. Braun’s music is on demand in Israel, Europe and in the US, while the composer keeps busier than ever with new compositions. In addition to his musical compositions, Braun has published an anthology of traditional Jewish melodies, translations into Hebrew of classical Greek poetry, and articles mainly about Melody and Modality. Yehezkel Braun is Professor Emeritus at Tel-Aviv University. In 2001 he was awarded the Israel Prize for Music. The Hebrew folk song has numerous sources of influence, such as the Bible’s Te’amim (trope) and Arabian music, to name a few. Many of the Israeli folk tunes were written by either Israeli (Palestine) born composers, or, for the most part, by newcomer Zionists from Russia and Poland. The music is spiced with quasi-Arabian microtonal flavor, as much as the piano can allow, meaning semi-tonal emphasis, both melodically, and in the frame of the Phrygian mode. Many of the songs share a modal style, with sections using drone or ostinato devices rather than distinctive Western harmonic progression. It is also likely for one to come across the melodic interval of an augmented second (Eb to F#, for example), shared frequently by both the Bible’s Te’amim and Arabian music. However, some of the songs and their writers still draw from classical, European traditions as a source of inspiration. In the scope of the set Song of Land: Seven Israeli Songs, composer Alexander Argov is the distinguished representative of the European musical tradition. More than twenty ―favorite‖ popular Hebrew songs were performed by contralto Mira Zakai in a 1988 concert, celebrating Israel’s 40 th anniversary. Composer-arranger-pianist Menachem Wiesenberg was asked to set new artistic arrangements to the songs. Wiesenberg’s works span varied musical fields, from popular music to art song, jazz, choral and orchestral writing. Following his graduation from the Tel-Aviv Academy of Music, he did his Masters at the Julliard School of Music. Béla Bartók has stated that “The creative imagination required for the writing of a good arrangement does not fall in the least from that needed for the writing of an original work.” Approached by the task of arranging the Hebrew songs, Wiesenberg attested, ―In the spirit of these words and with profound respect.” He said, “In my arrangements I tried to preserve the freshness and spontaneity so characteristic of the folksongs and yet at the same time, give them the scope of art songs presenting as if seen from a fresh and personal point of view.” 2 Tonight’s seven song selections represent three genres in Israeli folk songs: desert songs (1, 5), biblical songs (3, 4) and songs of mourning (2, 6, 7).


Yehuda Cohen, The Heirs of the Psalmist: Israel’s New Music (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 1990), p. 211. 2 Menechem Wiesenberg, arranger, Twelve Songs of Land, arranged for soprano and piano (Tel-Aviv: Israeli Music institute, 1988), p. 3.

Composer David Zehavi (1910–1975) was born in Jaffa. At the age of twenty, he was among the founders of his Kibbutz, Na’an. In 1927, Zehavi browsed through ―Moledet,‖ a youth magazine, and read the poem Caravan. He made few changes to the text, and made it the first song he ever composed. 3 Caravan is not written in a strophic way, but rather is through composed, though, in this case, without a real change in the atmosphere nor the content of the different verses. 4 The basic pattern— ascending three-note upbeat, then a long note— gives the song a sense of steady movement, portraying the caravan moving slowly through the desert. Pay attention to Wiesenberg’s creativity, citing a renowned orchestral piece in the piano part. 1. Orkha Bamidbar (Caravan) Jacob Fichman/ David Zehavi To the right and the left there is only sand The desert yellows and there’s no trail, A caravan passes, moving silently As a wondrous mirage. And a paced sound goes up and down, Camels move in a sad landscape Lin-lan, lin-lan, the song of wandering Silent and heavy, silent and wandering Moscow-born Alexander (―Sasha‖) Argov (1914–1995) was one of Israel’s prolific songwriters, with an output of over 1,200 songs, musicals and films. His songs carry unique original melodic lines and harmonic complexity. Poet Rachel Bluwstein (1890–1931) (also known as Rachel) came to Israel from Russia as a pioneer and lived in the first Kibbutz established in Israel, Dganya, located near the Sea of Galilee. She traveled to Toulouse to continue her agricultural studies, but these were caught in the midst of World War I. Unable to return to Palestine, Bluwstein moved back to Russia. In Odessa, while caring for refugee children, she caught tuberculosis. Rachel’s last years were spent between hospitals and her tiny Tel-Aviv apartment, struggling with her disease. 5 2. Heye Na Tov Elay (Be Good To Me) Rachel Bluwstein/ Alexander Argov (arr. Argov) My strength is dwindling Be good to me, be good to me! Be my narrow bridge Above the abyss of my day’s grief Be good to me, be good to me! Be a soul for me, Be a comfort to the heart.

Gil Aldema, Nathan Shachar, editors. Pupil’s Songbook: Lyrics, Music and Background, vol. II (Tel-Aviv: Mifaley Tarbut Wechinuch Ltd., 1995), p. 220. 4 Herzel Shmueli: The Israeli Song: Style, Structure and Lyrics (Tel-Aviv: Mifaley Tarbut Wechinuch Ltd., 1971), p. 66. 5 For further information, visit The Jewish Agency for Israel, ―Rachel,‖ URL:

Be a tree that shadows wilderness, Be good to me! The night is so long, Dawn is far away, Be my little light. A sudden happiness. Be my daily bread! Songs of Solomon is the main source for Hebrew songs based on biblical texts.6 Also favored by classical composers, some of its verses have several composed versions. The verse Ana Halakh Dodekh (Whither Your Beloved) will be performed tonight in two different tunes, by Emanuel Amiran and Gil Aldema, respectively. Emanuel Amiran (1909–1993) came to Israel from Russia at the age of fifteen. He is best-known for his holiday songs, although his repertoire also includes music for the theater and film. Amiran is one of the designers of Israeli music education, serving as the first music-education head supervisor at the Ministry of Education of the young state of Israel (established 1948). Gil Aldema was born in Givatayim (near Tel-Aviv) in 1928. Upon graduating from Jerusalem Music Academy, he began working as a music teacher in Hadassim youth village, where he established a choir and an orchestra and composed his own first songs. Over the years, Aldema led from his accordion many evenings of Shira Betsibur (literally, singing in public) across Israel. Between 1957–1960, Aldema studied at the Mannes College of Music. Later on, working in the Israeli radio and television, he produced singing festivals and programs reviving old songs. Aldema is well known for his numerous Hebrew song choral arrangements. He was rewarded the 2004 Israel prize for his contribution to developing, designing and preserving the Hebrew song. Aldema composed Ana Halakh Dodekh in 1955 as a pedagogical piece for his students at Hadassim; the different parts of the song emerge into one canon. 3+4 Ana Halakh Dodekh (Whither Your Beloved) Song of Solomon/ Music by Emanuel Amiran | Gil Aldema ―Whither Your Beloved gone O fairest among women? Whither has your beloved turned That we may seek him with you?‖ ―My beloved has gone down to his garden To the beds of spices.‖ Naomi Shemer (1930–2004) was the prolific writer and composer of hundreds of songs. Described as ―First Lady of Israeli Song‖ and ―soundtrack of Israeli lives,‖ her songs are familiar to basically every Israeli, who sing and hear them as children and as grown-ups.

Shmueli, p. 56.

Fitting the meter of the lyrics to the music in a rare match, Shemer’s songs capture the essence of the Israeli landscape and people. In a time when Israeli songs referred to the ―we,― Shemer additionally incorporated a personal voice within the unity of the group. Her song ―Jerusalem of Gold‖ was chosen as the all-time favorite Israeli song, and was offered as an alternative to the Israeli national Anthem, Hatikvah. After Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995, Shemer translated Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain! and composed it. Shemer was born in Kibbutz Kvutsat Kinneret, by the Sea of Galilee, where she was buried on June 27th, 2004, alongside her parents and the poet Rachel. 5. Kibuy Orot (Lights Out) Naomi Shemer/ Naomi Shemer A long way the regiment has passed Skipped over an abyss And moved on – A way without an end – Till from the top of the rock The sound of trumpet called: Night has come to the desert The smoke from the bonfires rise, The moon above the prairies ignites With a face like blood. A soldier sings his song in the wind, Against the mountain. The regiment, exhausted, Rests in the desert, sings, And a drum answers back. Till from the top… Bring peace to our tents in the desert, Our regiment skipped over the abyss And moved on, Its lines must be strengthened, When from the top of the rock… At the age of two, Nathan Yonathan (1923–2004) was brought with his parents from Kiev to Israel. He was a poet, translator and literature editor and teacher. Nathan Yehonathan’s elder son, Lior, lost his life in the Yom Kippur war (1973). Yearning for piece and the futility of war colored Nathan’s work. 7 His songs are rooted in the Israeli nature and landscape, on to which he often depicts human emotions. Song of Land is often being performed or heard on Israeli radio on grief days such as Memorial Day or Yom Kippur’s eve.


Ami Isseroff, ―Nathan Yonathan: A poet of peace has died,‖ URL:

6. Shir Erets (Song of Land) Nathan Yonathan/ Alexander Argov Land that feeds on its people Flows with milk and honey and blue, Sometimes even steals The sheep of the meek. Land of sweet clods And all its beaches salty as tears, And its lovers gave it All they could give. Again, the white squill flowers There on the road, alone, And the jasmine returns the scent Of its lost fields of time. Land of sweet clods… Yellow ragworts return every spring To cover all its wrinkles And summer wind will caress with light The sorrow of its stones. Again, the autumn with the heavy clouds Will cover with grey all its gardens, And the winter Its weeping eyelids will close. Again the white squill… Land of sweet clods… Hanna Szenes (pronounced Senesh) (1921–1944) wrote the poem Eli, Eli while taking a stroll on the beach from her Kibbutz, Sdot Yam, to nearby Caesarea. The song’s title is also known as A Walk to Caesarea. Szenes was born in Budapest, and came to Israel at the age of eighteen. In 1943, she enlisted in an elite paratrooper unit of the British Army, in an attempt to liberate Jews in Hungary. 8 In June 1943 Szenes parachuted behind the enemy lines in Yugoslavia, crossing the Hungarian border with the aid of a partisan group. She was captured and tortured for months by both German Gestapo and Hungarian Police. Szenes would still not give in any information. After a short field trial, Szenes was executed in Budapest by a firing squad. Her remains, along of those of six other fellow paratroopers, were brought to the military cemetery in Jerusalem in 1950. Composer David Zehavi attested that the melody “matured in me and came out in a single stroke of passion… not a single note corrected, nor changed.” Zehavi wrote to Szenes’ mother: “One of the most beautiful songs I have ever composed is A Walk to Caesarea, and to say the truth, while composing the song, in the course of its writing, my eyes shed tears.”9 The song has a unique melodic contour. It is very rare to have a song

Baer in mind that Israel was under Mandatory British control until its independence in 1948. 9 Gil Aldema, Nathan Shachar, editors. Pupil’s Songbook: Lyrics, Music and Background, vol. I (Tel-Aviv: Mifaley Tarbut Wechinuch Ltd., 1995), p. 176.

open with an ascending octave (arranger Menachem Wiesenberg uses this element in the piano introduction as well). The octave leap is linked to the text by the ritual of pra yer, addressing God in the sky. The peak point of the song is on ―The shining sky.‖ This song is likely to be performed at schools around the country during Holocaust Day. 7. Eli, Eli (My Lord, My Lord) Hanna Szenes/ David Zehavi Eli, Eli! Let there be no end To the sand and the sea, The water-murmur, The shining sky, The prayer of mankind. A common link from the previous recital The Lyric Bass II: Mostly German to the present The Lyric Bass III: Mediterranean Mingle is that the previous recital incorporated music with Italian influence. (Henze’s San Biagio 9 Agosto ore 1207 and Mozart’s Per Questa Bella Mano). The August heat in Montepulciano, Italy, by which Henze was inspired, and the vocal quality of the Italian language used on the operatic stage by Mozart and others, bring us to Bottesini’s Duetto for Clarinet, Double bass and Orchestra. Bottesini’s music recaptures the cliché of good-spirited Italian warmth. Double bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini (1821–1889) is considered to be the greatest master of the instrument in the 19 th century, standing almost solely as the primary source for original solo repertoire from that period. Late U-M double bass professor, Stuart Sankey, wrote: “But what is sorely absent is any solo repertoire for the double bass from the nineteenth century, other than music written by composers who were primarily bass players. Unquestionably head and shoulders above all others in this category is Bottesini, who is very underrated as a composer. In terms of ingenious exploitation of instrumental resources and flamboyant display, he does not score much below Paganini, and some of his finer bel canto moments are worthy of Bellini.” 10 A prolific composer, Bottesini has written several operas as well as a large corpus of works for the double bass. These concerti and short pieces demand both agility and brilliant technical skills, on the one hand, alongside quasi-vocal lyric bel canto style passages, on the other hand; in fact, both hands are rather busy. Duetto for Clarinet, Double bass and Orchestra features both aspects: flashy scales and arpeggios, involving the double bass’ natural harmonic series, as well as aria passages. Bottesini’s father was a clarinetist with the Theater Orchestra in Crema, which might explain the choice of the clarinet. Bottesini has other duo pieces, in which the orchestra accompanies bass and violin, bass and cello, and two basses. As a conductor himself and a friend of Giuseppe Verdi’s, Bottesini conducted the premiere of Aida in Cairo, celebrating the 1871 opening of the Suez canal. Bottesini’s own double bass was an Italian three-stringed instrument, popular at the time. When Verdi wrote a famous double bass solo in his opera Otello, specifying ―The basses with

Stuart Sankey, ―As You Like It- Original or Transcribed Bass Repertoire‖ (1987), in Highlights from the American String Teacher Double Bass Forum (1984–1994) (Bloomington, Indiana: T.I.S., Inc, 1996), p. 11.

four strings‖. 11 ―When Bottesini, a tall and powerfully built man, bends down low over the colossus, his left hand ceaselessly traversing the immense distance from neck to bridge and his bow-hand attacking the strings as if it were wielding a sabre, one is forced to admire the athlete in him almost as much as the musician”, wrote the renowned musical critic Eduard Hanslick. 12 Composer, pianist and director Dr. Menachem Bensussan (1901–1970) was born in Russe, Bulgaria. 13 After basic piano training in his hometown, his family moved to Sofia, where Bensussan, alongside his high school training, received a more thorough musical education at the capital’s Music Academy. He was accepted to the Viennese Academy of Music, as a student of the renowned pianist, Emile von Zauer. But fate put a barrier in the future of Bensussan as a pianist: While ice-skating in Bulgaria, he fell and broke one of his wrists. Although he graduated with honors from Prof. Von Zauer’s studio, Bensussan realized that pursuing a career as a concert pianist would be difficult to maintain due to pains in his wrist. Not discouraged, he turned to other avenues in musical creativity, taking conducting with Dr. Joseph Marks. At the same time, he began to study dentistry, a decision that would eventually assure him financial security throughout his life (not such a bad idea, to be considered by every musician…). After graduation in 1925 he turned to Berlin, continuing his dentistry studies, and at the same time serving as a rehearsal pianist and assistant conductor of the Magdeburg Opera. Soon new horizons were placed in front of Dr. Bensussan through favorable reviews in the Magdeburg press, in addition to the personal relationship between his conducting professor from Vienna and director/producer Max Rhinehardt. In 1931 the latter, serving as creative director of the Deutche Oper in Berlin, appointed Bensussan as musical director of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus and other works. The cooperation ended in 1933, when due to the political atmosphere in Germany Bensussan returned to Sofia with a wealth of musical experience, as well as a dental diploma. He established a piano trio, and later on composed for the stage, anonymously published popular songs, as well as completed symphonic works such as Bulgarian Suite, premiered by the Tzar’s Symphonic Orchestra. “Light music I compose as recreation, but classical music is my vocation” was how Bensussan presented his musical approach. In Sofia, Bensussan became the conductor of the Tsadikoff Choir. This choir is still active in Jaffa, Israel (a city with extensive Bulgarian Jewish community), where it had celebrated its centennial anniversary this past summer. In 1940, with the arrival of Hitler to Bulgaria, Bensussan left Europe and emigrated to the U. S. In Hollywood, California, he had to decide whether to obtain a successful career in the popular and film music, or to remain true to his heart and continue with his classical

Lawrence Hurst, ―A Brief History of the Double Bass,‖ URL: 12 Cited in Klaus Trumpf, Werke für Kontrabaß (Works for Double Bass). Disc (Berlin: Edel Records 0093962BC), jacket notes by Antje Hinz, translated from German by J & M Beridge, 1999. 13 Taken from Benyamin I. Arditti, Famous Hebrew Bulgarians, vol. III (Tel-Aviv: Achdut, 1971), pp. 74-83, translated by Margarita Bensussan Harvey. This source is probably a translation of a similar biography in Bulgarian by Marco Isakoff.

realm. Bensussan left California, continued his studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dentistry, and graduated in 1944. He settled in New York City, and maintained a dental practice at 1 West 85 th Street. Simultaneously, Bensussan composed and published piano and chamber music, and researched Sephardic music and folk songs. During 1967, Dr. Bensussan took a trip to Israel and considered spending the rest of his life there; unfortunately, soon afterwards he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The three (out of seven) Sephardic songs are taken from a manuscript at the archive of the Israeli National Library in Jerusalem. Presumably a gift by the composer’s sister Margarita during her visit to Israel in lieu of a performance of Bensussan’s Bulgarian Suite in Israel in the mid 1970s, the tidy handwritten script was rediscovered by musicologist Edwin Seroussi and recorded on a 1997 CD with soprano Robin WeiselCapsouto and pianist Miri Zamir-Capsouto, sung in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) dialect. Bensussan’s Three Sephardic Songs arrangement demonstrates his high skills both as a pianist, using rich, technically demanding textures, and as a composer, utilizing imaginative reharmonizations of the different verses of each song. Durme, Durme (Sleep, sleep) Sleep, sleep, beautiful maiden Without anxiety, without pain Listen, my love, to the strains of my guitar Listen to my gloomy singing Say, will you love me? If not— I shall die. Enriva De La Tu Seja (Above your eyebrows) Above your eyebrows I will build a sanctuary To which I will sing my morning prayers. Spill water on your threshold, I will slip and fall so that your parents will come out and know me. Esta Armada Ke Viene (Among the approaching group) ―Among the approaching group of beautiful girls, My beloved is that one dressed in red.‖ (Beloved): ―Thirty liras he asked for, and I gave him thirty one. A good profession he has, he’s a thief and a gambler.‖

Ron Merhavi October 2004

Shared By: