Violin, Alto/C Flute, Guitar
Eugenia Moliner and Denis Azabagic approached David Leisner, Clarice Assad, Allan Thomas, Joseph Williams, and myself to write chamber works for what would culminate in a collaboration among the Cavatina Duo, Avalon String Quartet, and Lincoln Trio members Desiree Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe.
What most attracted me about this commission was the opportunity to explore the register and near infinite sustain of the violin as a welcome addition to the familiar flute and guitar combination. Rather than compete with the range of the violin, I chose to use the alto flute (for the most part) for its wonderful and grounded color, allowing the guitar to live comfortably in its own register.
The commission’s challenge was that the melodies used to inform this piece had to be of Sephardic origin. My knowledge about Sephardic music was desultory, but Eugenia and Denis’ passion for it was contagious.
So I began to investigate and learned about the troubled history of the Sephardic Jews in Spain. Subsequently, I fell into their poetry and music. From the many works I was able to study, I became infatuated with the two songs that permeate this piece: “Ven Kerida” (Come, My Love) and “La Tuya Gracia y Hermosura” (Your Grace and Beauty).
The lyrics to “Ven Kerida“ loosely translate to:
Come my love to the edge of the sea. I will tell you of the sufferings I have lived through, as they will make you weep. An orphan, without Father or Mother, I have nowhere to rest. Stretch your leg out a little so I may sleep, for in your arms I shall die…
It was this poem and its gorgeous melody that formed the pillar of my piece, while “La Tuya Gracia y Hermosura” informed the middle section.
Throughout the writing process, I had a recurring vision of a proud, yet helpless, soul at the edge of the coastal town of Burriana in Eastern Spain, singing her plight to the Sea. She gains solace as her song is joined — perhaps by the Sea herself. It is a story wrought with sadness, but also hope: a perfect metaphor for the troubled yet inspiring journey of the Sephardic people.