Composer Yotam Haber’s “Estro Poetico-armonico III”

Composed for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra, the piece was Yotam Haber’s prize-winning work for the 2020 renowned Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music

“Estro Poetico-armonico III,” was world-premiered on October 22, 2020, during last year’s Azrieli Music Music Prizes Gala concert at Bourgie Hall in Montreal, Canada. The work was performed by Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne and conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt.

This song cycle for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra is the third in a series that Haber began in 2012.

“The title of this work is taken from Benedetto Marcello’s (1686-1739) collection of psalm settings that he composed after attending and transcribing liturgical chant of the Venice synagogue,” Yotam Haber told The Violin Channel.

“In Marcello’s preface to the first edition, he writes of the musical connection between what he heard in the synagogue and a historical lineage passed down from generation to generation all the way back to Mount Sinai. While this assertion can’t be proven in any way, the idea is evocative: a hope that an ancient oral tradition can withstand time and change.

“Like the Telephone Game, where children whisper messages from one ear to the next, a purely oral tradition will mutate. My own Estro is a sort of Telephone Game, with my own re-hearings and re-casting of the past.

“The ethnomusicologist Leo Levi recorded Jewish communities in Italy from the 1950-60s, especially the extraordinary Roman tradition. These recordings are a window into a liturgical tradition that is slipping away, and I have been fascinated with these recordings for more than ten years. I have paired each recording I’ve chosen (one per movement) with an Israeli poem that deals with the realities of modern life in Israel while grappling with its history.

“This was written March 2020-August 2020, in the heart of COVID when I, along with my family, was really cut off from the rest of the world, living a very quiet solitary existence. It was a time of singular reflection for me, unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life. It let me reconsider what resonates with me in music, in narrative, and for whom I am writing music. There was an intense, brutal honesty with myself while writing this that I hold very dear.

“While I do feel that music ought to speak for itself, and so ideally a vocal work should make an impact even without a listener comprehending the text, I do think that if one takes the opportunity to read the modern Hebrew poetry (with translation) that I set, alongside the texts of the prayers that we hear the Italian cantors from the Leo Levi recordings intoning, one would get a deeper, more nuanced grasp of how different strata co-exist and struggle with one another. That struggle — my struggle of being Israeli, of often not feeling Israeli, of being Jewish, of often struggling to believe — is really what this work is about.”

The Azrieli Music Prizes, created in 2014 by the Azrieli Foundation, presents three categories, the Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music, the Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music, and the Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music. The 2022 Azrieli Music Prize laureates were recently announced.

Originally published in The Violin Channel. View the original article here.