New Music at Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall Commissions
Commission at a Glance
Here Comes Messiah!
Matti Kovler
Recorded on May 9, 2009
at Zankel Hall

Tehila Goldstein, Soprano

Original libretto: Janice Silverman Rebibo and Matti Kovler

Workshop Ensemble: Alan Pierson, Conductor; Carol McGonnell, Clarinet; Nathan Botts, Trumpet; John Ostrowski, Percussion; Jared Soldiviero, Percussion; Matti Kovler, Piano; Yael Manor, Piano; Brandon Seabrook, Guitar; William Holshouser, Accordion; Keats Dieffenbach, Violin; You-Young Kim, Viola; Lev “Ljova” Zhrubin, Famiola; Claire Bryant, Cello; Jane Cords-O’Hara, Cello; Kristoffer Saebo, Bass; Jeremy Flower, Laptop


Notes on the Work

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 my works.

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.

—Matti Kovler