Commissioned by the Jerusalem Quartet and the Jerusalem Music Center for the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Jerusalem Quartet
- “An illusion or fantasy; something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so.” (Oxford English Dictionary) Anyone that walked in the desert or drove in hot weather conditions is familiar with this phenomenon. What seems like a pool of water appears out in the distance, and disappears as you approach it.
When I was asked to write a new piece for the Jerusalem Quartet, I wanted it to be uniquely Israeli. Mirage is characteristic of both our physical land as well as of our history and heritage. Throughout the piece, themes are introduced and developed, but instead of reaching a satisfying culmination they evaporate or fade away as we get closer to them. The first movement, Mirage, begins with a short mystical introduction. The core of the movement is constructed like a classical sonata form. The first theme is based on a quasi-Indian raga and on rhythmic cycles, while the second draws its inspiration from the rhythms of classical Persian music. Throughout the movement, the opening three chords play a crucial role in blurring the boundaries between what is real and what is fantastic. As the mirage continues to elude the traveler, frustration builds, creating more and more energy and anxiety towards the end of the movement.
The second movement, Prayer for the Innocents, follows the first without a pause. It begins with a transition based on the opening three chords which leads into a solemn prayer. The prayer theme is first introduced in a baroque like fashion, and is then followed by a variant in Middle-Eastern style. Since one quiet cry sometimes expresses tragedy more powerfully than many words, this movement has fewer notes. While I was writing this movement, the horrible tragedy in Beslan, Russia, occurred. In memory of the children who passed away, the movement title is Prayer for the Innocents, a quote of the Russian archbishop praying for the victims’ souls.
The third movement is entitled Ruchot. This Hebrew word has multiple meanings – it can refer to winds, spirits, and souls. Desert winds are extremely unpredictable – one minute very weak, the next very strong. They carry sand with them and can cover or reveal anything in a matter of seconds. In this sense they are like spirits or souls – and are a kind of mirage.
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