<< -- 3 -- Malcolm Miller THE MUSIC OF JULIAN DAWES
The memorable evening concluded with the world première of Eleven Jewish Songs, sung by the mezzo-soprano Ruti Halvani for whom it was composed, accompanied by the talented pianist, conductor and composer Benjamin Wolf. The arrangements retain the traditional melodies of the selection of contrasting songs from Ashkenazi, Hassidic and Sephardi, Ladino traditions, yet the accompaniments were widely varied, often reinforcing the mood of the texts and sometimes creating entirely new soundworlds from the confrontation of folk and art elements. Ruti Halvani was an ideal interpreter, an experienced operatic soloist who has specialized in repertoire that explores the interrelationship of art and folk music.
The eleven songs work well as a cycle, moving in contrasting groupings; particularly evocative was the first song 'Avinu Malkenu' ('Our Father, our King'), a prayer from the liturgy of the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement, while the second song 'Kiriay Yefehfiya' wove a magical spell with its bitonal, sustained harmonies. The more flowing 'Et Dodim' was followed by the richly textured textures of 'Adon Ha'selechot' while the meditative mood continued in 'Ki Eshm'ra Shabat', a meditation on holiness of the Sabbath. A more lively Sephardi melody for the Sabbath song 'Tsur Mishelo' led to a rhythmic folk song 'Deror Yikra', in which the free melody of the original was transformed into a Weill-like march, and the optimistic mood of 'Karev Yom', a song about approaching redemption.
The cycle concluded with three songs based on texts by Israeli poets, Yehuda Karni (1884-1949), David Shimoni (1856-1966) and H N Bialik (1873-1934). Karni's 'H'itragut' featured countermelodies of voice and piano while Shimoni's 'Shir Hanoded' emphasised harmony between the partners; the cycle concluded on an elusive questioning note with Bialik's 'Hacnisini Takhat Kenafech' with its rippling arpeggio textures supporting an independently flowing lyrical vocal line. While the original melodies were always present, the overriding impression was that of a transformation of the songs that both expressed the ideas of the texts yet in Dawes' entirely new, intriguing and individual manner.
Copyright © 6 May 2006
Malcolm Miller, London UK
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