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Avner Dorman

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Nigunim (Violin Sonata No. 3) (2011)
G Schirmer Inc
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Piano + 1 Instrument
Year Composed
20 Minutes

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   Score and Part(s)

Programme Note
Avner Dorman Nigunim (Violin Sonata No. 3) (2011)

April 16 2011
Gil and Orli Shaham
92nd St. Y, New York, NY

Related works:
   Nigunim (Violin Concerto)

Composer note:
The Nigun is a fundamental musical concept of traditional Jewish music. According to Habbad literature, the Nigun serves as a universal language; it ascends beyond words and conveys a deeper spiritual message than words can; a Nigun sung in Yiddish will reach and affect someone who only speaks Arabic and vice versa. The Nigun may be short but since it begins and ends on the same pitch it may be repeated over and over. In this sense, the Nigun has no beginning and no end and is eternal. Nigunim (the plural of Nigun) may be secular or religious, fast or slow, and may be sung and played in a variety of social events and circumstances.

When the 92 Street Y and Orli and Gil Shaham approached me to write a new piece for their Jewish Melodies program, my first thought was to write a piece that would explore the music of the ten lost tribes (the Hebrew tribes that were exiled after the first temple was destroyed). Since we know very little about the whereabouts of these tribes, I decided to explore the music of various Jewish traditions from different parts of the world and how they relate to larger local musical traditions.

To my surprise, after researching Jewish music from different parts of the world, I found that there are some common musical elements to North African Jewish cantillations, Central Asian Jewish wedding songs, Klezmer music, and Ashkenazy prayers. Though I did not use any existing Jewish melodies for Nigunim, the main modes and melodic gestures of the piece are drawn from these common elements. Moreover, different sections of the piece draw upon local non-Jewish musical traditions of each of these regions: for example, the second movement uses principles found in Georgian folk rhythms and harmonies, and the fourth is inspired by Macedonian dances.

— Avner Dorman

When asked by the violinist Gil Shaham and his sister, the pianist Orli Shaham, to write a work for their concert of Jewish music at the 92nd Street Y, the composer Avner Dorman decided not to create a piece with traditional Jewish melodies. Instead, Mr. Dorman — an Israeli composer whose influences run the gamut from Bach and Bartok to the jazz guitarist John McLaughlin — explored Jewish traditions from around the world, including Central Asian wedding songs and North African cantillations. He meshed those idioms with other traditions like Macedonian dances and Georgian folk rhythms to create the electric Niggunim for piano and violin. The work had its premiere on Saturday night at the 92nd Street Y, given a dynamic performance by the Shaham siblings. Niggun is a Hebrew word meaning soulful melody; the music often has repetitive and improvisatory elements. Mr. Dorman’s piece opened with a haunting, slightly dissonant Adagio, whose eerie melody was etched out by Mr. Shaham in a high register. In the third-movement Adagio the piano took over, slowly teasing out a similarly haunting tune in the upper register. Mr. Shaham plunged into the virtuosic thickets of the Scherzo with aplomb, revealing its improvisatory melodies with flair. The concluding Presto unfolded in a kaleidoscopic blaze, a frenzy of jazzy rhythms and explosive energy.
Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times,17/04/2011
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