Composer Joelle Wallach writes music for orchestra, chorus,
chamber ensembles and solo voice. The New York
Philharmonic Ensembles premiered her octet, “From the
Forest of Chimneys,” written to celebrate their 10th
anniversary; and the New York Choral Society commissioned
her secular oratorio, “Toward a Time of Renewal,” for 200
voices and orchestra to commemorate their 35th Anniversary
Season in Carnegie Hall. New York’s New Music for Young
Ensembles nominated her piano quartet, “Runes and Ritual,”
for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Music and Wallach’s String
Quartet #2 was the American Composers Alliance nominee
for The Pulitzer Prize in 1997.
Dr. Wallach’s popular and profound lectures at the New York
Philharmonic and the Dallas Symphony address a broad
range of musical subjects, bringing fresh insights to familiar
works and opening doors to modern ones and to those less
Wallach grew up in Morocco, and makes her home in New
York City, where she was born. Her early training in piano,
voice, theory, bassoon and violin included study at the
Juilliard Preparatory Division. She earned bachelors and
masters degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia
University respectively. As early as 1980 her choral work, “On
the Beach at Night Alone,” won first prize in the
Inter-American Music Awards. In 1984 the Manhattan
School of Music, where she studied with John Corigliano,
granted her its first doctorate in composition.
Dr. Wallach served as Visiting Professor of Composition at the
College of Music at the University of North Texas during the
academic years 2010-2012 and this recording commemorates
her years teaching there. It also celebrates Wallach’s
ongoing engagement with melody and melodic counterpoint,
and features performances from among her favorite
performers from the University of North Texas and beyond.
1. The Nightwatch is full of longing and the“w’s,” of
Madeleine Tiger’s poem, with its watery sounds of rain,
tears, waves and woe.
Wherever you are tonight,
will you know how the
world was washed
where I was?
When I went away
wishing for you
I was wrong.
I wanted to vow
I wouldn't worry;
we weren't the world's twins.
Now I allow whole wastes,
winter wherever I am,
even when the weather warms.
No wonder I
will welcome the
wolf of my wanting.
2. Assurance is based on the poem William Stafford
wrote for his wife just prior to his death.
You will never be alone.
You hear too deep a sound
when autumn comes.
Yellow pulls across
the hills and thrums,
or silence after lightning
before it says its names.
You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone.
Rain will come,
a gutter filled,
an Amazon, long aisles.
You never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years.
That's what the silence meant,
the whole wide world pours down.
3. Written in the imaginary voice of Jasmin, Wallach's
magical cat and mini-muse, Alleycat Love Song,
based on a poem by Dana Gioia, is a lyrical, lusty look at
longing and an exuberant collaboration between piano and
Come into the garden, Fred,
For the neighborhood tabby is gone.
Come into the garden, Fred.
I have nothing but my flea collar on,
And the scent of catnip has gone to my head.
I'll wait by the screen door till dawn.
The fireflies court in the sweetgum tree.
The nightjar calls from the pine,
And she seems to say in her rhapsody,
"Oh, mustard-brown Fred, be mine!"
The full moon lights my whiskers afire,
And the fur goes erect on my spine.
I hear the frogs in the muddy lake
Croaking from shore to shore.
They've one swift season to soothe their ache.
In autumn they sing no more.
So ignore me now, and you'll hear my meow
As I scratch all night at the door.
4-6 Sin mañanas, Three Spanish Songs,
4. La Guitarra is a long song, a concert aria, based on
a l921 poem by Federico Garcia-Lorca, which was
inspired by Lorca's extensive research (with de Falla) into
the cante jondo, the indigenous poetry and song of
southern Andalusia. Wallach's song, like the Lorca poem,
reflects the passion and mystery, the profound and abiding
anguish of the realm of the gypsy guitar.
In describing this tradition, Lorca wrote:
The figure of the cantaor is found within two great lines, the
arc of the sky on the outside, and on the inside the zigzag
that wanders like a snake through his heart. When the
cantaor sings he is celebrating a solemn rite, as he rouses
ancient essences from their sleep, wraps them in his voice,
and flings them into the wind.... He has a deeply religious
sense of song. Through these chanters, the race releases
its pain and its true history....They were prodigious
interpreters of the peoples' soul who destroyed their own
hearts in storms of feeling.
Empieza el lanto de la guitarra.
Se rompen las copas
de la madrugada.
Empieza el llanto
de la guitarra.
Es inútil callarla.
como llora el agua,
como llora el viento
sobre la nevada.
Llora por cosas
Arena del Sur caliente
que pide camelias blancas.
Llora flecha sin blanco,
la tarde sin mañana,
y el primer pájaro muerto
sobre la rama.
por cinco espadas.
The guitar’s weeping begins,
breaking the cups
The guitar’s weeping begins.
It’s impossible to silence.
Useless to try
to silence it.
like water weeping,
like wind weeping
over the snow.
It’s impossible to silence.
Weeping for remote
Hot southern sands
longing for white camellias;
Arrows without targets;
evenings without mornings;
and the first dead bird
on the branch.
Heart mortally wounded
by five swords.
5. Soñando Sueños de Tango was composed for a
program of tangos and zambas presented by the Americas
Society in New York City. It adapts characteristic gestures
of the Argentinean tango, distorted to suggest the
disorientation described in the poem by Graciela Perez
Desperté en Buenos Aires
una mañana de junio
todo estaba en su lugar
el café y las medialunas
tu silla frente a la mía
el mismo ritual de siempre
una más uno yo sola.
Desperté en Buenos Aires
invierno trayendo niebla
sentí que estaba muy lejos
soñando sueños de tango.
Todo paneado y exacto
y no pude darme cuenta:
Sin vos la casa vacía
y no pude darme cuenta.
El final como el comienzo
casual para ser verdad
tender que desandar
tu avenida y mi dolor
el resto pasará mañana
cuando desperte en Buenos Aires.
I woke up in Buenos Aires
on a June morning.
Everything was in its place:
the coffee and croissants,
your chair facing mine.
The same ritual as ever -
with one difference – I’m alone.
I woke up in Buenos Aires,
with the winter mists.
I felt that I was far away
dreaming of the tango.
Everything planned out and exact,
And I couldn’t understand….
The ending, like the beginning,
too casual to be true,
I tried to retrace
your path and my sorrow.
The rest will happen tomorrow
when I wake up in Buenos Aires.
6. Los Ojos is based on a poem by the 20th-century
Spaniard, Antonio Machado. In the song as well as the
poem, moments of silence portray the stark emptiness of
the protagonist's emotional landscape.
Cuando murió su amada
pensó en hacerse viejo
en la mansión cerrada,
solo, con su memoria y el espejo
donde ella se miraba un claro día.
Como el oro en el arca del avaro,
pensó que guardaría
todo un ayer en el espejo claro.
Ya el tiempo para él no correría.
Mas pasado el primer aniversario,
¿cómo eran--preguntó--, pardos o negros,
sus ojos? ¿Glaucos?...¿Grises?
¿Cómo eran, ¡Santo Dios!, que no recuerdo?...
Salió a calle un día
de primavera, y paseó en silencio
su doble luto, el corazón cerrado...
De una ventana en el sombrío hueco
vio unos ojos brillar. Bajó los suyos
y siguió su camino...¡Como ésos!
When his beloved died
he thought he would grow old,
in the closed mansion
alone, with his memories and a mirror
in which she looked at herself in a brighter day
Like a miser keeping his gold in a box,
he thought he could keep
all his yesterdays
intact in the clear mirror.
For him time wouldn’t run.
But after the first anniversary,
“What were they like,” he asked himself,
"Hazel or black, her eyes, green or grey?
What were they? Dear God! Not to recall..."
He went out into the street one day
in spring and silently carried
his double mourning, his heart closed.
From a dark place behind a window
he saw a pair of shining eyes. He looked down
and continued walking...”Like those!”
7. Lágrimas y Locuras, Mapping the Mind of a
Madwoman, a dramatic, Lisztian piano work was written in
2011 for pianist Ana Cervantes’ Monarca Project. In it,
Joelle Wallach returns to her ongoing musical exploration
of psychological landscapes.
The folksong, La Llorana, on which Lágrimas y Locuras is
based, tells the story of a Mexican Indian woman who,
while still young and beautiful, meets a Spanish
conquistador as he rides past the river outside her tiny
town. They fall in love, marry, have two children and live in
a palace in Mexico City. When he is called back to Spain,
she waits in her small town by the river for his return. And
it is by the river she sees him again, riding in a grand
carriage with his new blond Spanish bride. He doesn’t
recognize her, changed and aged as she has been by
years of yearning under the searing Mexican sun. Furious,
she rushes to the riverbank and, crazed by rage, betrayal
and humiliation, drowns their two children.
Forever after, she is doomed to pace the banks of Mexican
rivers, weeping. For La Llorona, no memory, no reflection
or recollection - no matter how sweet - can remain
untouched by guilt, anger and the bitterest regret.
Lágrimas y Locuras, Mapping the Mind of a Madwoman,
does not recount the verbatim story of La Llorona, but
instead imagines La Llorona’s tempestuous inner
monologue as she walks, eternally distraught, along the
banks of innumerable Mexican waterways. The virtuosic
piano work reveals her infuriated interior monologue, railing
against her fate, against the betrayal of her lover and
against the result of her own impetuous rage. It
deconstructs the simple melody of the folksong to explore
the state of mind of that woman walking endlessly, alone
and weeping, at war with her own past, her thoughts, her
memories and her conscience in a relentless avalanche of
sorrow, remorse and wrath. Each time her thoughts return
to simple scenes of past happiness, love or family, the
melody within her twists, writhes and rages through strange,
unexpected, distorted textures and tonalities.
8. PAX celebrates the sweet spiritual life of Wallach’s
angelic cat, Suri, in the words of D.H.Lawrence.
Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.
Sleeping on the hearth of the living world,
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
as of a master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.
9. Voices of the Iron Harp is a lovesong, written in
1986 as Wallach’s personal farewell to the piano. It uses
an open-ended variation form and the heroic poetic
gestures of 19th- and 20th-century piano literature to
explore and evoke the variety and gradations of mood and
sound available through the keyboard from the heart of the
iron harp inside.
10. The Firefighters’ Prayer has been displayed on
the windshields of fire trucks and on firehouse windows
around the United States for generations. Its traditional
words have had personal meaning to firefighters across the
continent, a core of faith for lives built on daily acts of
personal heroism. The words of “The Firefighters’ Prayer”
remain particularly poignant in the aftermath of September
Touched by the traditional words immediately after that
catastrophic event, Wallach found a melody hidden inside
the prayer, built on elements of Irish folksongs of loss and
The stark contrast between the prayer and what we know
to have been its fulfillment infuses the folk-like music and
poem with a stark dignity and a deep lyrical tenderness.
When I am called to duty,
Whenever flames may rage,
Give me strength to save a life
Whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout
And quickly and efficiently
Put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling
To give the best in me
To guard my every neighbor,
protect his property.
And if according to Your will
I must answer death's last call
Bless with Your protecting hand
My family one and all.
11. Organal Voices explores the timbral and
psychological similarities and differences between the
bassoon and vibraphone in an evocative, lyrical context.
Each performer must find his individual voice, explore
uniquely subtle colors and feelings during the "quasi
cadenza" moments, yet be able to blend gracefully with the
other when playing together. Organal Voices' melodic
material is entirely derived from the first four notes of the
Dies Irae; and the title reflects the composer's idea of what
it must have been like in the Middle Ages to begin to
experience simple polyphonic textures with the advent of
organum after centuries of monophony. Then, too, each
performer must have found an increased awareness of the
roles of other voices.