A recording of the winning compositions in the 2018 Azrieli competition for new Jewish music has been released by the Montreal-based classical label Analekta.
New Jewish Music, Vol. 2 – Azrieli Music Prizes contains Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy’s En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One) and Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman’s Nigunim (Violin Concerto No. 2). The recording also includes a new arrangement of the late Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick’s Seven Tableaux from the Song of Songs.
The works are performed by the Orchestre classique de Montréal (OCM), conducted by Boris Brott.
Murphy’s composition is a double concerto for harp and cello performed by the Vancouver-based duo Couloir, which is made up of harpist Heidi Krutzen and cellist Ariel Barnes.
The original creation was given its world premiere by the OCM, guest conducted by Yoav Talmi, at the 2018 Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) concert in October 2018.
Its title comes from a Sephardic proverb that, in Murphy’s words, “encourages us to understand that we are all equal; once you remove the trappings of society and economy, we are more similar than we are different.”
Each of the four movements uses music from the Sephardic tradition as its source, especially Ladino folk songs related in some way to women’s lives and motherhood in its broadest sense. Murphy researched music from such far-flung lands as Bulgaria, Turkey and the Balkans for inspiration.
Dorman’s Nigunim had its debut in 2011 in New York, performed by Gil and Orli Shaham, for whom it was written. In 2014, Dorman orchestrated the piano part and, in 2017, heavily revised it to the form that won him the Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music.
It also had its premiere at the October 2018 concert, with Lara St. John, who is featured on the recording, as soloist.
“I tried to bring more of the sonata’s folk elements and rhythmic variety to the fore through orchestral colours, often by using instruments in unusual ranges and with unorthodox performance techniques,” Dorman explained.
Nigunim are wordless Jewish prayer melodies, often incorporating repetitive sounds.
Dorman explored Jewish musical traditions from different parts of the world and compared them to those in Israel.
“To my surprise, I found that there are some common musical elements to North African Jewish cantillations, Central Asian Jewish wedding songs, klezmer music and Ashkenazic prayers,” he said. “Though I did not use any existing Jewish melodies for Nigunim, the main modes and melodic gestures of the piece are drawn from these common elements. Moreover, different sections of the piece draw upon local non-Jewish musical traditions.”
The Glick composition was arranged for soprano, piano and string orchestra by Montrealer François Vallières, specifically for this recording.
Glick was asked by Toronto physician Garson Conn to draw on the texts of the biblical Song of Songs to write an original piece as an expression of his love for his wife on their 30th anniversary.
Seven Tableaux was first performed in 1992 at the Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto in its original scoring for soprano, piano, violin and cello.
Vallières enlarged the romantic work to encompass a string orchestra to accompany soprano Sharon Azrieli.
Brott commented that Azrieli, the founder of the AMP, “invested every phrase with nuance and feeling. It’s definitely the best interpretation of Glick’s score to date and I am proud of our work together.”
Established in 2014 by the Azrieli Foundation, the AMP consist of two biennial $50,000 prizes awarded internationally for excellence in new Jewish music and is open to those of all backgrounds.
The winning submissions are selected by a jury of experts from the fields of music creation, performance and research.
Analekta also recorded New Jewish Music, Vol. 1, the works of the inaugural prize winners, performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Steven Mercurio.