The Klezmer Concerto
For Clarinet, Strings, harp, and percussion (2006/08)
The source of inspiration to this concerto is the unique musical language of star clarinetist and virtuoso klezmer David Krakauer. Over the years I have collaborated with David on several performances and recording projects. it is, however, the first time that I wrote a composition entirely dedicated to him and with the intention to prominently feature his distinct playing style. In preparing the composition, I visited David in New York City and we went over some early sketches. The few hours we spent together seemed to me more like a wizardry session than a musical rehearsal. David demonstrated amazing sounds, passages, and techniques; something I had never heard before and never imagined possible. Some of these inspiring sounds found their way into the composition and they echo frequently throughout the solo clarinet part.
The concerto opens with a slow but intense movement titled Pastoral Doyna. A Doyna is a lament-like melody -- both declamatory and melancholic -- of Eastern-European origin, most likely Rumanian, Gypsy, or Jewish. The opening by the string ensemble is reminiscent of the awakening sound of nature. On top of the busy accompaniment the clarinet enters with occasional shouts, echoes, and cry-like gestures.
The second movement is a sort of a wedding-waltz, titled: Nigun of the Seven Circles. The name goes back to the old Jewish tradition according to which a bride has to circle around the bridegroom seven times before the actual start of the marriage ceremony. The nature of this movement is a mixture of irony and passion, humor and pain. At the end of the waltz the clarinetist is invited to play a free cadenza and improvise on previous motives and melodic patterns. The movement ends with a return to the orchestra, with a soulful lament and quiet murmuring of the soloist.
The third and last movement of the concerto is titled "Halleluya." It is inspired by the textual content, vibrant rhythms, and many musical instruments suggested in the 150th Psalm. Toward the end of this movement, there is a second solo cadenza in a perpetual motion style, where upon the players of the orchestra join in and add their voices to the pandemonium with a song of praise: "Halleluya!"
Notes by the composer