Variation - Works for solo violin and solo violoncello by Michael Shapiro
Notes by the composer
Meriiam-Webster defines "variation" as the repetition of a musical theme with modifications in rhythm, tune, harmony, or key. When composing, I much prefer to think of the word's primary definition: "the act or process of varying the state or fact of being." For me, a musical theme is one view of reality, its intervals creating its definition and direction, a statement rather than an elaboration. A variation however takes the listener somewhere else. The terrain may look familiar but it's somehow new.
Each variation then may take something from the theme that is valued but molded into something unexpected. Some themes are difficult to vary, they're just too complete in themselves, but choosing the right theme pregnant with meanings makes change more readily apparent. Rushing ahead or pulling back, asserting a rhythm derived from the theme's gait but moving it into an altered walk, or pointing out a moment ignored from the theme's first telling, are but a few possibilities. What's not thought of is often a welcome change.
Variations on Eliahu Hanavi for solo violoncello was premiered by cellist Ithay Khen at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in 1994. The first performance of the work at a conference about the role of the clergy during the Holocaust was produced by Gottfried Wagner, played by a young Israeli cellist, before an international audience, and broadcast over Berlin radio, had a potent significance for those assembled. For Jews, Elijah's name is invoked at the weekly ritual marking Sabbath's end, also at the Passover Seder and ritual circumcision. Boston Symphony Orchestra Associate Principal Cellist Sato Knudsen's magisterial performance of the theme and twelve variations reveals meanings not initial obvious.
Peace Variations were written for the great virtuoso violinist Tim Fain and premiered in 2010 at the Meisel Gallery in Soho, New York City. The customary Jewish greet of Shalom Aleichem - Peace Be Unto You - is also memorialized in a traditional theme often used to greet the beginning of the Sabbath. The music expresses a hope for universal peace that is the ultimate goal of Judaism and civilized living. The Hebrew symbol of "Chai" or life or the number 18 are represented in an equivalent eighteen variations. Yes, cherishing life is more important than anything else. Those desires outlined in contrasting variations are abundantly nurtured by the expressiveness of Tim's miraculous playing.