Songs of Ascents for cello and bassoon (2007)
Songs of Ascents for cello and bassoon (2007) were written for virtuoso cello and bassoon duo Rebecca Rust and Friedrich Edelmann. The title "Songs of Ascents" or "Shir Hamaalot" refer to a group of fifteen Psalms 120-134. They were sung by the pilgrims going up to Jerusalem on the Three Festivals. As the pilgrims ascended Mount Zion, these songs were on their lips. These pieces are imagined excerpts from that pilgrimage. Perhaps, in a way like manuscript illustrations, images from Ancient Israel which draw inspiration from the Psalms.
The musical materials are based upon Oriental – Jewish Traditional music. The first and third pieces uses Kurdish motifs and songs. The second is after a Sephardic melody played at Lag BaOmer celebrations. While the last is from a Sephardic prayer nigun chanted at Selicot services.
I – Awakening: I rejoiced when they said unto me: 'Let us go unto the house of the Lord.'
II – Processional: The Lord bless thee out of Zion; And see the good of Jerusalem all the days of they life. Psalm 128:5
III – Meditation: Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty; Neither do I exercise myself in things too great, or in things too wonderful for me. Psalm 131:1
IV – Recessional: The Lord Bless thee out of Zion; Even He that made heaven and earth Psalm 134:3
V MAX STERN: Biblical Landscapes for orchestra (1999)
These symphonic sketches are based upon Jewish ethnic music from North Africa and Yemen. They are inspired by the people and nature of the Negev Desert and Beer Sheva. They evoke the impressions pious seekers from Arab lands who sought mystical fulfillment in the Promised Land only to collide headlong into the modern world.
VI MAX STERN: Huda for piano 4-hands(1987)
This work for piano 4-hands is influenced from the nomadic Bedouin's favorite song, known as the Huda, and said to mimic the movement of camels' feet across the desert. Its subtle rhythmic patterning glides on the edge of symmetry, hobbling along into infinity.
Other Middle Eastern influences in the work include the quasi-heterophonic textures of the piano writing, evocative hypnotic figurations resembling the Oriental violin, and rapidly repeated notes resembling the plucked strings of ud and qaanun - all this, along with the fluctuating tensions of vocal music.
A set of eight variations for piano 4-hands, its theme is based on the popular North African Jewish piyut (religious song), Yoducha Raiyonai (My inner thoughts shall praise you, O Lord, my shepherd), sung on joyous occasions in homes and synagogues. It was written for the Beer Sheva Duo (Sara Fuxon Heyman and Bart Berman) and recorded by them on April,
VII Max Stern: Aryeh Shaag "The Lion Hath Roared" for chorus, strings, and shofars (2011)
"The Lion Hath Roared" is a setting of the prophecy of Amos from the Bible. He asks: Why the perpetual recurrence of persecution throughout Jewish history?
In seeking an answer, the prophet Amos searched his people's origin and foresaw their destiny: You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will visit upon you all your iniquities (Amos 3:2).
Hebrew Text: עמוס פרק ג
א שִׁמְעוּ אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה עֲלֵיכֶם--בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: עַל כָּל-הַמִּשְׁפָּחָה, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלֵיתִי מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר. ב רַק אֶתְכֶם יָדַעְתִּי, מִכֹּל מִשְׁפְּחוֹת הָאֲדָמָה; עַל-כֵּן אֶפְקֹד עֲלֵיכֶם, אֵת כָּל-עֲוֹנֹתֵיכֶם.
ו אִם-יִתָּקַע שׁוֹפָר בְּעִיר, וְעָם לֹא יֶחֱרָדוּ; אִם-תִּהְיֶה רָעָה בְּעִיר, וַיהוָה לֹא עָשָׂה. ז כִּי לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, דָּבָר, כִּי אִם-גָּלָה סוֹדוֹ, אֶל-עֲבָדָיו הַנְּבִיאִים. ח אַרְיֵה שָׁאָג, מִי לֹא יִירָא; אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה דִּבֶּר, מִי לֹא יִנָּבֵא.
English translation: Amos 3:1-2, 6-8
1 Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.
6 Shall the horn be blown in a city, and the people not tremble? Shall evil befall a city, and the LORD hath not done it? 7 For the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth His counsel unto His servants the prophets. 8 The lion hath roared, who will not fear? The Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?
VIII MAX STERN: Prophecy for the End of Days
for narrator, mixed chorus, children's choir, glass harps, tambourine, darabuka, rebaba, shofar and string orchestra (2009).
The cantata Prophecy for the End of Days is another prophetic oracle for narrator and choir. It calls upon performers to sing, speak, and play percussion instruments. The ensemble includes a mixed choir, children's choir, string orchestra, tambourine, darabuka, glass harps, rebaba (a Bedouin instrument), and the ancient Jewish ritual instrument - shofar.
It voices a prophetic vision that all nations will embrace the ideals of Zion and find fulfillment and peace therein.
It was written for and first performed by students at the Ariel University Center of Samaria (including a Bedouin student who plays the rebaba on this recording), Ariel Children's Choir, and Ariel Chamber Orchestra at the Civic Auditorium in Ariel, Israel on May 5, 2010.
In addition I have synthesized original melodic and harmonic materials with a traditional synagogue melos - a tune by 19th century Viennese cantor, Solomon Sulzer (1804-1890).
In this way, the work brings history to bear upon contemporary events, placing prophetic words, biblical destiny, and a Bedouin descendant of Jethro to join and share in the blessing awaiting the Chosen People at the end of time (Exodus 18:10-12).
Thus saith the Lord God: When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell with confidence, when I have executed judgments upon all those that despise them round about them; and they shall know that I am the Lord their God (Ezekiel 28:25-26).
But in the last of days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk I his paths: for the law shall go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. For all people will walk everyone in the name of his god; and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever (Micah 4:1-1, 5; Isaiah 2:2-3).
Max Stern (b. 1947 USA) is a composer, conductor, musicologist and music critic. He has created a rich genre of biblical compositions blending East and West in contemporary and traditional genres. A recipient of the Israel Composer's League Lieberson Prize, 1990, and an award from the Japanese Society for Contemporary Music, 1991, his opera Messer Marco Polo was performed at the New York City Opera Vox-2006 show case. He has represented Israel at international conferences and festivals in Israel, USA, Europe, and the Far East as composer, conductor and lecturer on the "Contemporary music," "Bible & Music," and "Ancient Music". He serves as music critic for The Jerusalem Post since 1988; founded the orchestra and chorus of Ben Gurion University of the Negev in 1995 and since 2000 serves as founding professor of music at Ariel University.