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Passions and prayers (sextets: clarinet, horn, trombone, piano, viola, double bass)

by Yitzhak Yedid (2003)

Passions and prayers


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Work Overview

Passions and Prayers is a suite in five parts for horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, trombone, viola, double bass and piano. It was composed by Yitzhak Yedid in Jerusalem, Israel in 2003, and is dedicated to Jerusalem.

Passions and Prayers is introduced to us through the eyes of the observer, as if he holds a mirror in front of us, to reflect and portray the feelings of people who live with deep love but also experience constant sorrow and anguish. It is presented as a storytelling suite, unfurling a story in the language of music. The music conveys differing emotions, oscillating between the mysterious and the exposed, between the passions of love and the coldness of harsh reality. The prayers in the work are those of compassion and pity, borne of deep faith and acceptance.

The composition is written in five parts, each comprising themes, motifs and atmospheres, which are repeated in different ways. The structure of the composition may be likened to that of a film or play, made of scenes or acts. The atmospheres, which are sometimes highly contrasting in nature, engender tension and mystery. And, just like in films or plays, here too the full meaning will only be understood after listening to the entire work. The titles of the parts, which are images and poetic comments, were chosen as a general guide to the feel of the composition and are not binding. The listener may assemble the parts into a story, according to his or her understanding or imagination.

Passions and Prayers is based on various elements and incorporates different compositional techniques, taken from contemporary classical music, where improvised parts are played in avant-garde jazz and folk music styles. This approach is based on the belief that the contemporary performer has mastery of different musical languages. This produces a musical richness meant to create a homogeneous entity. The six performers express, in their alternating roles, a wealth of images and atmospheres, ranging from gentleness alongside impulsive outbursts, and quiet along with a constantly and consistently changing "cloud formation". The players are asked to convey emotions and feelings, according to their own understanding and interpretation, through improvisation and sometimes creating their own personal composition within the overall work.

The first part opens with viola and double bass - incorporating microtones - and introduces the general spirit of the composition. The opening theme reappears in the final part, but there the clarinet, horn and the trombone will join in the developing theme and complete the opening and closing picture. Succeeding pictures appear, relating a plot that emerges from wildly oscillating moods, ending with a tutti harmonized melody played by all six instruments. At the end of opening part, the double bass solo introduces a prayer, in two sections. The first, "Rave Prayer", played pizzicato, is full of pathos and might. The second section, played bowed, conjures up images of "weeping whispers", and is improvised with very high overtones. The other instruments, meanwhile, play a group of long tones in second intervals in piano-pianissimo, creating a spirit of pervading sadness.

At the beginning of the second part ("Edge Walkers"), the instruments divide into three pairs - the piano with the double bass, the viola with the clarinet and the horn with the trombone -imparting a sense of walking along a precipice. The instruments in each group play a melody line in unison, with the three unison groups maintaining a counterpoint dialogue, until this dissipates into "Illusory Ways". The six instruments split up into six layers, each of which playing a separate chromatic pianissimo line. The instruments then reassemble into the horn improvisation before the horn, double bass and piano continue on to an avant-garde solo.

The viola solo, "The Viola's Regard", connects us to the next picture, creating tension and a sense of mystery played in long tones of the five others instruments, interspersed by strumming low piano strings that merge with the musical incidence. The closing section appears suddenly, and in forte fortissimo, as a sharp change and a return to the opening section. The instruments rejoin into unison groups, before parting accordingly, into the final improvisation ("Sad Pageantry").

The third part describes the development between imagination and reality, between the passion of love and beauty and a situation of chaos and anarchy, at the end of which, a heartfelt prayer appears. It opens with "Angels' Passions", in which the horn leads a celestial melody, answered by an opposing group. A dialogue develops, continued by the gradual addition of other voices up to the climax of the dialogue in which all the six instruments participate. The following two parts - "Death Scene" and "The storm before the calm" - portray chaos and anarchy. The last part is an impassioned prayer, a hommage to Jerusalem, played by double bass and horn.

The fourth part, "When silence meets silence", is introduced by the piano solo, opening with piano-pianissimo harmonious tones on the lowest registers of the piano. It creates an atmosphere of mystery, interspersed by a sharp motif of three block chords, played forte-fortissimo, which return later in the part and in the fifth part. A short improvised section, which closes with a slightly modified version of the opening motif, will later merge with a short melody that appears as a fleeting episode. Another improvising part leads us back to, and closes with, the opening harmonious tones. Then, as if out of nowhere, the viola and double bass join the closing tones, playing three isolated notes in a major third interval, in a portrayal of naivety.

The fifth concluding part presents a range of subjects and atmospheres, some of which have previously appeared. These sometimes appear as reminders and sometimes as a development akin to the thoughts of an old man, considering his memories in acceptance and soberness. "The Trombone's Poem", may be construed as the statement of the observer - the storyteller. This is followed by an improvised section with piano and the double bass, "Nothing lasts, you seeā€¦", ending with the block chord motif of the fourth part, in a sort of flashback.

The finale includes a development of the opening subject. The horn, clarinet, trombone, viola and double bass play harmonious progression chords in very slow tempo, with the horn, viola and double bass alternately taking the lead. The work ends with a long, lonely, F sharp tone, echoing the viola's F sharp from the introduction, as a concluding cycle, but now played by the double bass.

Work Details

Year: 2003

Instrumentation: French horn, clarinet/bass clarinet, trombone, viola, double bass, piano.

Duration: 56 min.

Contents note: In 5 parts.


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