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Rocketekya was commissioned for the twentieth anniversary of New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall. Golijov wrote it for clarinetist David Krakauer, violinist Alicia Svigals, electric violist Martha Mooke, and double bassist Pablo Aslan, who played the premiere in 1998 and are also heard in the present recording. The composer has written the following remarks about the piece:
I was asked to write a celebratory fanfare. But then I thought it would be interesting to write a different sort of celebratory piece, and I had an idea: a shofar blasting inside a rocket—an ancient sound propelled towards the future. So, that is Rocketekya: a shofar blasting its t’ki’a (one of its prescribed pattern calls) inside a rocket. In the middle of its journey, the rocket meets a Latin band in orbit....I wrote the piece for four musicians I love and admire, and dedicated it to Vicki Margulies, who was the hall’s artistic director at the time.
The use of various traditional klezmer band clarinet inflections and timbres gives the piece an overall feeling of a fusion of some of the typical sounds of 19th-century eastern European klezmorim, contemporary Latin rhythms and flavors, and postmodern auras and sensibilities. But despite its futuristic impulse, the klezmer band idioms and emblematic eastern European intervals predominate and permeate the piece.