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Medieval Hebrew

MALCOLM MILLER attends the première of
'The Death of Moses' by Julian Dawes


Flowing Medieval Hebrew poetry and rich choral sonorities distinguished the new cantata The Death of Moses by the London-based composer Julian Dawes, which received an impressive and enjoyable world première on 25 March 2003 at the North Western Reform Synagogue in North London, followed by a second performance on 30 March. The performance, part of the London Jewish Arts Festival, was given by the Alyth Choral Society who commissioned the work thanks to a Jewish Music Institute Millennium Award supported by the National Lottery, under the zestful direction of the choir's conductor Vivienne Bellos. The eighth to eleventh century Hebrew texts, which have been set by avant-garde Jewish composers such as Josef Tal and Alexander Goehr, once formed part of the Jewish Liturgy for the Rejoicing of the Law following the New Year, and depict Moses' feelings about his approaching death, which change from defiance and fear to acceptance.

Julian Dawes
Julian Dawes

An experienced composer for the theatre, Dawes's accessible setting is in nine sections, with verses depicting Moses' questioning his fate dramatized by a narrator -- the actor David Sibley -- and choruses that range from angelically lyrical to dance-like and jazzy. The work begins and ends with a paean to Moses as one of the greatest prophets, and is both about death and about the ability to be human rather than divine.

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Copyright © 4 April 2003 Malcolm Miller, London, UK


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