The May 9, 2009 performance at Carnegie
Hall marked the work’s World Premiere.
Seven years ago, while still in Jerusalem, Sarah Friedland sang me the melody
of the Hassidic chant “Peliah” (“Wonder”); she had heard it from her
grandfather, Rabbi Eliahu Ki Tov.
As often happens in the Hassidic folk repertoire, the musical motto of
“Peliah” precisely reflects the meaning of the text (an interval of a rising
third immediately followed by a descending third corresponds to “If I ascend up
to heaven / You are there, if I make my bed in the underworld / You are
there”—Psalms 139: 6–8). This mirroring, in addition to the somewhat strange
quality of the melody itself, captured me. Since then, “Peliah”—along with a
number of other chants, mostly of Hassidic origin—has found its way into some of
When I presented an excerpt from the piece early in October, both Dawn and
Osvaldo commented on the developmental section and the importance of
preparation. This concept of “preparation”—combined with the unusual abilities
of the singer, Tehila Nini Goldstein— eventually gave rise to the birth
metaphor, now central to the piece.
The text borrows from several poetic and prosaic sources, from Leonardo da
Vinci’s diary to works by the American poet Lloyd Schwartz. Recurring images of
the red bird, or the falcon in Yeats, serve as catalysts (or “sparks” in
Kabbala) of the message to come.
Russian-born Israeli composer Matti Kovler has written music performed by Boston
Modern Orchestra Project, Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands), and Fox Studio’s
Symphony Orchestra, among others. His works often bring elements from the Jewish
tradition in a contemporary context. The Escape of Jonah oratorio is a
parody on the biblical story of the prophet Jonah. Cokboy for orchestra
and narrator similarly tells the story of a displaced Jew—this time in
America—in search for his cultural identity. Matti’s awards include fellowships
at the Tanglewood Music Center and the Aspen Music Festival, as well as the
Theodore Presser Award. He is a recipient of the America Israel Cultural
Foundation Scholarship for study in the US.
current as of February 2010
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