Saturday, May 08, 2010

"The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind"

ARAMAIC WATCH: A clarinetist in Cleveland will be performing a work in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Yiddish based on the Kabbalah of Isaac the Blind.
Clarinetist performs epic Jewish work

Senior Staff Reporter (Cleveland Jewish News)
Published: Friday, May 7, 2010 1:08 AM EDT

Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen will be playing klezmer melodies at Severance Hall, but don’t expect to hear a stirring rendition of “Romania.”

Instead, Cohen, 63, accompanied by The Cleveland Orchestra, will perform klezmer riffs in the second movement of Osvaldo Golijov’s “The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind,” on May 13-15. This selection is part of the Symphonie Fantastique concert at Severance Hall.

The Argentinean-born, religiously observant Golijov composed “The Dreams and Prayers” in 1994 for string quartet and clarinet. He was inspired by the medieval French rabbi, known as Isaac the Blind, a mystic who believed that all things happen as the result of combinations of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Golijov’s work uses music instead of the kabbalah to portray the cosmic mysteries of the Jewish experience. “The movements of this work are written in three different languages spoken by the Jewish people throughout our 6,000-year history,” the 49-year-old Golijov writes. “The prelude and the first movement are in the most ancient Aramaic; the second movement is in Yiddish, the rich and fragile language of a long exile; and the third movement and postlude are in sacred Hebrew.”

Not to be too pedantic, but the "most ancient" Aramaic here would presumably be medieval or Talmudic Aramaic, rather than the actual most ancient version, which would be Iron Age epigraphic.

More on Isaac the Blind here.