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|Alternative. Title||Eight Improvisations on Chasidic Folk songs|
|Composer||Bitensky, Laurence Scott|
|Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.||2001|
|First Publication.||2001 Silly Black Dog Music|
|Average DurationAvg. Duration||21'|
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period||Modern|
1. Songs 1-3; 2. Songs 4-5; 3. Songs 6-8
Song has always occupied a prominent place in the culture of the Chasidim. Founded in Poland in the Eighteenth Century by Israel Baal-Shem Tov, the mystical Chasidic movement quickly spread throughout Eastern Europe. The leaders of the movement, known as Tzaddikim, greatly valued piety and joyous expression over traditional Jewish study. Music, particularly wordless vocal music, was therefore a vehicle for intense and ecstatic spiritual elevation. To the Chasidic mind, song is the soul of the universe. The Divine name is composed of four musical notes, and singing is an outpouring of the soul capable of reaching the highest spheres.
Tzaddikim and their followers regularly composed songs. While some songs have texts, words were generally considered to be limiting, interrupting the stream of emotions. These well-known niggunim, or wordless songs, are used for inspiration and preparation for worship. Rooted in liturgical chant, dance rhythms, and Jewish folk music, the Chasidic niggun is heavily influenced by Slavic folk music, Cossack dances, and military marches as well.
Like Bartok’s Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Folk Tunes, Op. 8, Rapture: Eight Improvisations on Chasidic Folk Tunes is set of free improvisations on existing tunes, arranged into three movements. The tunes are taken from Abraham Idelshon’s Thesaurus of Hebrew-Oriental Melodies, Vol. 10: Songs of the Chassidim. The original tunes, included in the appendix, contain a variety of modes and exhibit a range of expression, from vigorous and exultant dance-like tunes to ecstatic reveries. Half are wordless, some have religious texts (numbers 1, 7 and 8 ), and one (number 5) is a humorous caricature of the Chassidic tune with a satirical text written by an opponent of the movement.
The three movements should be played without interruption. If desired, the pianist may play the original tunes included in the appendix before or after the performance.