|I. Allegro "Dance of the Joyous"
|II. Adagio-Andantino "Dance of the Enraptured"
|III. Moderato-Allegro "Dance of the Exultant"
Three Hassidic Dances (1941) was Leon Stein’s first successful orchestral work, and it remains one of his most admired expressions—even though he wrote it initially almost as an exercise for a conducting class in which there were opportunities for orchestral readings.
With forceful syncopations, enticing rhythms, alluring repetitive patterns, and quasi-improvisational passages, it reflects the mystic fervor, intensity, and ecstatic states of self-induced joy for which Hassidim typically strive—not only in daily life and prayer, but especially during celebrations that involve a mixture of song and dance. The composer’s own subtitles are Dance of the Joyous, Dance of the Enraptured, and Dance of the Exultant. The melodic, modal, and rhythmic material of the first and third movements is traditionally derived from tune prototypes in Hassidic repertoires and from fragments of known melodies. The second movement is entirely original and does not draw on any specific folk material. It calls forth the meditative parameters of Hassidism, with its mood of spiritual searching and clinging to God as well as its deliberate contemplation and even, in the composer’s interpretation, brooding.
The piece, which was not intended originally for staged dance production, received its world premiere in Chicago in 1942 by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra conducted by Izler Solomon, and it has been performed in various other cities, including Jerusalem. In 1960, however, it was choreographed and danced by the Pearl Lang Dance Group, with the NBC Symphony of the Air conducted by Warner Bass, at a Jewish Music Festival at Madison Square Garden in New York—an event that featured the Jewish Ministers Cantors Association (Hazzanim Farband) Choir of more than one hundred cantors (the typical exaggeration in the broadside of “200 famous cantors” notwithstanding) and “guest stars of opera and concert hall,” with the most powerful television mogul and variety show host of the day, Ed Sullivan, as master of ceremonies.
Coproduction with DeutschlandRadio Kultur and the ROC Berlin GmbH
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