Meira WARSHAUER (b.1949)
Symphony No. 1 Living Breathing Earth (2005) [26:20]
Tekeeyah (a call) (2008) [24:38]
Haim Avitsur (trombone/shofar)
Moravian Philharmonic/Petr Vronsky
rec. no details given
NAVONA RECORDS NV5842 [50:58]
A native of Wilmington, North Carolina, Meira Warshauer now lives in Columbia, South Carolina. She studied with William Thomas McKinley, Gordon Goodwin, Mario Davidovsky and Jacob Druckman.
This is not the first disc exclusively dedicated to her music. Streams in the Desert was an all-Warshauer CD of music for orchestra and chorus inspired by the Torah which appeared on the Albany label in 2007. There have been others.
Symphony No. 1 Living Breathing Earth is in four movements the first of which seethes with modernistic chaffing cicada noises and the rumbles of the jungle; the latter evocative of Villa-Lobos. By contrast the following movement (Tahuayo River at Night) has a great pervasive melodic calm. It’s a little like Mahler’s Adagietto meets Delius in a gentle drift downriver. The third movement has a chattering interplay of strings with butterflies and birds soaring above: Ravel’s Mère l’Oye blended with Villa-Lobos. The finale returns to a rangy melody but interpolates a gentle breathing pattern carried by the violins. Trumpets piercingly italicise the dramaturgy of the melody and drive the poignant message home amid flickers of wispy birdsong. The work serves as celebration and warning: a prayer for wisdom to heal our planet. The dedication is to the living breathing earth and her Creator.
We are told that Tekeeyah is the first concerto ever written for shofar and orchestra; anyone know of any others?. Never less than sincerely ambitious this is Warshauer’s “call for an awakening to our true essence as human beings.” The shofar (which you may recall being used abstemiously in Elgar’s The Apostles) is the horn of a ram or other kosher animal. It is a call to humanity to rouse itself from “the slumber of complacency” and in this three movement work the music is also bound up in Jewish religious references. Here the soloist, with whom Warshauer collaborated during the writing process, plays the horn of an African antelope.
Tekeeyah has a similar stylistic glossary to that of the Symphony. Gentle consonant strings sigh in a starry glimmer amid impressionistically gauzy writing: part Messiaen and part Ravel. There are Delian harp scintillations, around the rolling growl and bray of the shofar. There’s a real bite to the solo writing in Breaking Walls (II). It’s very animated yet a soft glow is never far away. The finale sports a slipping-sighing sentimental melody. A touch here of RVW. Had he lived long enough not only might he have given us the Saxophone Concerto he seemed to promise but also a concerto for shofar. It’s almost odd that neither Hindemith nor Hovhaness were moved in that direction. In any event in this concluding movement we encounter a Milhaud-like chugging rumba: very positive and happy. The shofar brays in majesty at the end and the strings rise high with solo and string mass echoing each other in exalting pain. The trumpets again italicise the splendour.
The present Navona disc presents two recentish substantial works though not of epic duration. Warshauer’s music is shot through with and inspired by mystical and spiritual matters that span a love and respect for Mother Earth and the Jewish faith.
Warshauer’s music is shot through with and inspired by mystical and spiritual matters that span a love and respect for Mother Earth and the Jewish faith.