Osvaldo Golijov
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The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994): Reviews
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We hear the essence of Golijov's art in this mesmerizing 1994 score: roots planted deeply in Hebraic tradition, dramatic instincts that surprise and move, an astonishing ear for instrumental sonorities and interplay. The work tells its tale in whispers and wails, the clarinet assuming a klezmer personality of stirring and sorrowful poetry.

—Donald Rosenberg, Cleveland Plain Dealer



It is a musical expression—reflecting joy and sorrow, laughter and tears—of a mystical Jewish belief in a constant state of communion in which human consciousness nurtures and renews itself through meditation. The piece deftly blends prayer and dance and leaves the listener in a state of grace that is all-too-rare in modern music.

—Gregg Cahill, Strings Magazine



Finally, a new score for clarinet quintet by Spoleto resident composer Osvaldo Golijov occupied two-thirds of this program, and provided a startling artistic experience whose echoes will haunt attentive listeners for a long time to come.

In his own words, Golijov's intention in writing the piece, here stunningly performed by clarinetist Todd Palmer and the St. Lawrence Quartet, was to fuse thematic elements of the Jewish klezmer tradition with the forms of the string quartet as found in Brahms and Mozart.

Here Palmer had the role of roaring biblical prophet in the savage, uncanny sonorities of the 'Aramaic' first movement, playing Bb, A and bass clarinets. In the second movement, a 'Yiddish' klezmer dance like no other, he played C-clarinet to beat the devil while the quartet strings pumped and stomped for dear life. For the third section, described as a modern 'Hebrew' prayer, the bass clarinet was prominent, leading to something like a rabbinical blessing at the end.

It all required extraordinary concentration and physical effort, none more than from Palmer, required by the score to make quick, improbably intervallic leaps, use finger glissandos and constant lip smears at rapidly-changing dynamic levels, and maintain a controlled fusion of stylistic points of view on four different instruments. He led the klezmer band in a strenuous, explosive performance of this score, and may well have provided one of the signal individual performances of this Festival.

It takes a strong piece to stand up to one of the Beethoven's late quartets. But the Golijov, which received its premiere in 1994, easily held its own, thanks in part to a powerful performance by the St. Lawrence and clarinetist Todd Palmer.

—Jack Dressler, Spoleto Today



Dreams and Prayers has a perfect thematic resonance...It was brilliantly played as part of the museum's chamber music series... Golijov embodies these themes in music that range from deeply meditative prayers to ecstatic and sometimes despairing klezmer-flavored dreams.

—Joseph McLellan, The Washington Post



This five-movement composition makes sense as a whole via its audible basis in Jewish sources as well as its cleverly controlled interweaving of slow and fast music. The latter promises an orgiastic climax... the raw timbres and energy were enthusiastically matched by string players whose ability to respond to just about any style and technique must surely be unequalled in quartet playing today.

—Keith Potter, The Independent



...It was a relief after the interval to be enlivened by more energetic music...a triptych for clarinet and string quartet in which the hell-for-leather klezmer playing of clarinetist David Krakauer contrasted with the ever-cool control of the Kronos.

—Matthew Rye, The Daily Telegraph