Three Choral Songs (to poems of Yehuda Amichai)

Bresnick's Three Choral Songs on poems of Amichai were commissioned by, and are dedicated to, the Connecticut Hebrew Chorale. The work sets three poems by renowned Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), one of the first poets to write in colloquial Hebrew. While the language carries with it a rich religious history, the texts are themselves secular. The first poem, "Roshi, Roshi" ("My Head, My Head"), in which the narrator describes reacting to the pain of hitting his head, receives an appropriately agitated setting, with frequently shifting meters and surprising chromatic dissonances. The second poem, "Began Katan" taken from Amichai's "Four Songs on War and Peace," describes a plaque displaying the names of dead soldiers, and observes that these soldiers, too, were once living tenants, like those whose names one might find in the entrance to a house. Bresnick's setting of this poem is considerably more sparse than the first, and includes the technique of having particular singers repeat single names, presumably of the deceased soldiers, independent of the rest of the ensemble. The piece ends with each vocal section repeating a name and an associated musical gesture, finally fading away into a reflective, eerie silence. The final poem, "Tosefet Lechazon Hashalom," ("An Appendix to the vision of peace"), urges people to convert instruments of war into instruments of another kind. Like the text, Bresnick's music is charged and exhortative; the musical language revisits and in some respects intensifies that of the previous pieces. The full choir is used throughout, and, as in previous movements, Bresnick exploits the instability of mixed meter and dissonant pitch relationships all the way up to the work's energetic conclusion.
-Linda A. H. Paul

Note from the composer:
Three Choral Songs begin, for me, with Amichai's sensual, material observation of the world as experienced, proceeding through the more outward though bitter observation that dead soldiers were once live tenants (whose names can be heard in my score), and finally ends, balanced precariously on a plow's blade, with what might be a musicians' addition to Isaiah's ancient prophecy of peace.