Six Improvisations on Chasidic Melodies - Paul Schoenfeld

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Composer: Paul Schoenfeld (formerly Paul Schoenfield)

Instrumentation: Flute and Piano


Date Written: 1991

Commissioned: For Carol Wincenc

Premiered: 1991

Additional Information: Paul Schoenfeld (formerly Schoenfield) composed the Six Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies for Piano Solo in 1985. They are presented here by the composer in this edition for Flute and Piano. There are six movements: Ufaratsta, Achat Sha'alti, Vah'hi Vishurun Melech, Kozatske, Nigun, and Rikud.

Paul on Six Improvisations on Chasidic Melodies:

"I was introduced to Hassidic music in 1985, having been given a book of Hassidic melodies and asked to provide dinner music for a synagogue banquet. The tunes -- some ecstatic, others reflective -- enchanted me; being absorbed in them eventually led to the composition of a piano suite, "Six Improvisations on Hassidic Melodies." Although three of the movements are based on Biblical texts, much Hassidic song is wordless, employing only vocalized syllables. This is because according to Hassidic Rebbes, melody was of primary significance; it was the melody that brought one to the heights of ecstasy and true religious fervor.

There is a philosophy behind Hassidic music quite distinct from traditional Western of synagogue music. Hassidism regarded the expression of exuberant joy and union with God as primary religious duties. The intangible facets of music were recognized as higher worlds, and one finds expressions such as "Song is the soul of the universe," "Impurity knows no song, because it knows no joy" and "Music originates from the prophetic spirit with the power to elevate one to prophetic inspiration." Not surprisingly, in modern times the significance of these melodies is such that they are becoming a form of religious exercise, even when not joined to the set occasions of religious service or joyous gatherings.

In 1989 Carol Wincenc collaborated with me on a flute concerto that eventually became "Klezmer Rondos." An upcoming recording of this piece left five vacant minutes on the projected CD, so I arranged the first two of the "Improvisations" for flute and piano. Eventually, in 2005, with Carol's urging, the suite contained all six was completed.

I. Ufaratsta: And you shall spread forth to the west adn to the east, to the north and to the south. (Genesis 27:14)

II. Achat Sha'alti: One thing I ask from the Lord, one thing I desire -- that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of the Lord and to meditate in His Temple. (Psalm 27:4)

III. Vay'hi Vishurun Melech: And He was King in Jeshurun. (Deuteronomy 33:5)

IV. Kozatzke: Cossack Dance

V. Nigun: Melody

VI. Rikud: Dance

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