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André Hajdu (1932–2016): Insomnia Noctis (Shadows and Echoes) for Double Bass and Small Ensemble

André Hajdu (1932–2016) studied at the Liszt Music Academy in his hometown Budapest under Szervanszky and Szabo (composition), Szegedi (piano) and Zoltán Kodály (ethnomusicology). Hajdu researched Gypsy musical culture and published several articles on this subject. In 1956 he moved to Paris, continuing his studies at the Conservatoire with Darius Milhaud (composition) and Olivier Messiaen (philosophy of music). Since 1966, Hajdu has been living in Jerusalem. He had taught at the Tel-Aviv Music Academy as well as Bar-Ilan University, serving in the latter as head of the Music Department and founder of the Composition Department. Hajdu published articles and CDs dealing with Klezmer and Hassidic Music. His transcriptions and arrangements of this repertoire have inspired some of his works, such as Truath Melekh, a rhapsody on Jewish themes for clarinet and strings (1974). As a composer, Hajdu was deeply involved in Jewish topics, not only on the usual folkloristic or liturgical levels, but also on broader aspects of Jewish thought (oral law, philosophical books of the Bible) as well as Jewish history; For example, the composer had set text and music to a cantata, describing the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain, entitled Dreams of Spain (1991). Hajdu’s unique Jewish thought merged ancient roots with a modern, personal concept.

A great deal of Hajdu’s output is artistic piano pedagogy works, among them Milky Way (Hajdu’s own 1976 take on Mikrokosmos), and a concerto for 10 young pianists (1977). All this is connected with the practice of creative teaching and improvisation in the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem, an experimental school for new approaches to music teaching.

In 1997, Hajdu obtained the Israel Prize for his oeuvre in composition, research and teaching.

Commissioning Shadows and Echoes for Double Bass and Small Ensemble was made possible through the support of the Yehoshua Rabinowitz Foundation for the Arts, Tel-Aviv.

Here are Hajdu’s program notes of Shadows and Echoes:

“In periods of intense activity I am awakened every night around 2.30 a.m. by an overwhelming flow of musical ideas which already began during the sleep. From there I turn in the bed, shaping these ideas and trembling to forget them. But their splendor vanishes usually with the daylight, leaving only a residue, which is not always interesting. From hundreds of such residues came out this piece.

Sometimes I get up and try to record them hastily. From these night-sketches, which look more like designs than musical notations, I could make an impressive exhibition. They are written with pencils of different colors representing each one a different instrument. But I had to write a musical piece with an inner logic and a narrative, which could be followed by the listener and this was particularly arduous that time: the material was too fluid and strongly resisted my efforts to reduce it to a linear succession of events. From these apparitions, I finally kept four very different “scenes,” which develop from the fluid towards the concrete.

As for Ron Merhavi, my former student who commissioned this piece for his diploma-recital, I think he had something simpler in mind: a work, which would show the possibilities of the lyric bass as it developed in the last 40 years, almost a new instrument. He sent me an up-to-date literature from Anderson to Henze and Rautavaara and I tried hard to assimilate these techniques. The outcome could be described as a bridge between the weightless daydreaming of the ensemble and the concreteness of the bass solo. The instruments– as heterogeneous as flute (four sizes), trumpet, accordion, bass clarinet, harp, viola and percussion (without drums)– weave a colored texture around the meditative obligato of the double bass, written in a complex and demanding, but not virtuoso fashion. Yet this relationship changes for each movement.

The title of the piece expresses a kind of mirroring between the instruments: an idea appearing in an instrument is usually followed by an echo or shadow of it in the others.

The double bass/piccolo duet in the third movement is a slightly changed version of a movement in my Light and Depth (1985).”

André Hajdu (1932–2016): Insomnia Noctis (Shadows and Echoes)

for Double Bass and Small Ensemble (2004) World Premiere

Ron Merhavi – Double Bass, Cathie Apple – Flutes; Lisa Raschiatore – Bass Clarinet; Kevin Gebo – Trumpet; Isaac Schankler – Accordion; Rachel Brandwein – Harp; Jason Amos – Viola; Emily Hendricks & Eric Klein – Percussion; Chris Hill – Conductor

Ron Merhavi's Third Dissertation Recital: Britton Recital Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 27.10.2004


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