Thursday, April 05, 2007

Five (Easy) Pieces part 2

(Sorry for the retroactive title edit -- took me a while to land on the correct title)

Osvaldo Golijov -- Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind: There's like an unwritten rule for composers that states: If you're going to write a clarinet quintet, you have to write it such that any prospective reviewer cannot avoid using the word "lyrical." So this piece, for clarinet and string quartet, fits the mold pretty well. It's actually for B-flat, A, C, and Bass Clarinet with string quartet, so there's all kinds of weeping, keening, shrieking, and squawking from the different sizes of black wooden tube. It makes a great fit for the subject matter, a meditation on the writings and the mystical posture of Isaac the Blind, a 12th-century French Kabbalist rabbi who was, among other things, blind and batshit insane. The piece draws on Jewish prayer melodies, klezmer tunes, and cantorial vocal style. It completely mesmerizes, even on recording. Kronos Quartet recorded it with my idol David Krakauer, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet also recorded it with Todd Palmer -- also a fantastic recording.

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