Dances in Freyghish (2022)
for Symphony Orchestra
A Klezmer Suite for Symphony Orchestra
Duration: 12 minutes min.
Commission: Commissioned by The Orchestra of the Southern Finger Lakes
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Dances in Freygish presents three famous Klezmer dances as scenes of Jewish life. Freygish is a type of scale common in Eastern European music and Jewish music, with a raised 3rd step that gives it a distinct bitter-sweet sound. The piece opens with an original Doyne, a solemn klezmer melody, played by the clarinet. This melody is often played when the father of the bride gives her away at her wedding, lamenting the loss of his child and the transition to adulthood. The Doyne leads to a Zhok, a heavy, energetic dance in ¾ meter. This particular Zhok, Firn Di Mekhutonim Aheym, was played when the band was escorting the parents of the bride and groom back home at the end of the wedding.
The second movement, Sher, is based on the Russian Sher. The Sher is an elegant dance in which couples bow their heads to each other, switching places going under a gate formed by each other’s arms. The Russian Sher has many melodies played in succession, and in my version, the Sher’s melodies are played together as pairs in polyphony. At the end of the Sher, a fife and drum are heard, hinting at the wars and pogroms that eventually led millions to emigrate from Eastern Europe to America at the beginning of the 20th century.
The story of Klezmer continues in America, and the final dance, the Bulgar, is a staple of American Jewish Klezmer music. With roots in Bessarabia (now on the borders of Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova), this dance has an 8/8 meter, with sweeping, offbeat rhythm, and great energy. Danced in circles on joyous occasions, the Bulgar echoes the hustle and bustle of New York’s Lower East Side, only momentarily pausing for a reflective melody before coming to a sweeping end.