Volume 17, Album 8: Choose Life and The Covenant, comprises two extended works: one a mediation on choice and responsibility; the other a painful inquiry into the crisis of faith.
Choose Life, Adler’s 1986 oratorio takes Moses’ Third Discourse as its central text, creatively combining it with other texts from the books of Micah, Isaiah, and Psalms, and with contemporary poetic interpretations of the role of human choice in mankind’s present and future welfare. In the composers eyes, the work “tries to capture the excitement of being fully alive—fully part of life: its ecstasy as well as its vicissitudes, its triumphs as well as its defeats.” Commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the work combines Adler’s typically dissonant approach to harmony and choral writing with upbeat, driving rhythms and percussion.
Scored for soprano solo, sixteen instrumental players, and two prerecorded tapes, Ralph Shapey’s The Covenant (1977) was composed to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the State of Israel, and took its inspiration from the themes of Israel’s international composition competition that year: Holocaust and “rebirth.” It draws on a variety of sacred and secular literary sources, as well as from inscriptions purportedly found on the walls of cellars where Jews hid from the Germans during the Holocaust.
Its four sections refer to four significant incidents or transformative confirmations of faith in the history of the Jewish people: the Sinaitic covenant between God and the people; the Holocaust; a spirit of reaffirmation; and the biblical assurance of messianic redemption. Described by one critic a being rooted in “a musical language that is often strident, prickly, dense and convoluted to the ear,” The Covenant addresses the question of individual faith.
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