Y’rusha (Hebrew for “inheritance” or “heritage”) is a cleverly fashioned divertissement of unrelated melodic and modal references, tune shards, and instrumental idioms derived mostly from the perceived melos of eastern European Jewry and its immigrant generation in America. Stock has imagined these as a single collective representation of one particular aspect of Jewish musical y’rusha. The work, for clarinet solo and an ensemble of seven instruments, is permeated by sighs, wails, slides, exaggerated portamento effects, and other clichés emblematic of the performance styles and techniques of 19th and early 20th-century Jewish wedding-band musicians known as klezmorim. There are hints and even partial quotations of actual tunes known to have belonged to the klezmorim repertoire, as well as other tunes that appear to be original but are conceived in the same vein. In the course of his musical development, the composer exploits, reworks, refracts, and alters these tune fragments in various juxtapositions and pointillistic reincarnations, providing mini-cadenzas for the clarinet as well.
Apart from such klezmer-associated and flavored material, there are also quotations from well-known Jewish songs. Among them is Di grine kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin), the once-famous Yiddish popular song and fixture of the Yiddish vaudeville and music hall milieu believed to have been written in New York in 1921 by the illustrious bandleader Abe Schwartz, with lyrics, according to the prevailing copyright, by Hyman Prizant. (Jacob Leiserowitz [Yankele Brisker] persisted in his claim to authorship of the words, even though his lawsuit to that effect failed). Di grine kuzine is a humorous song, but it also became one of the best-known expressions of immi- grant disillusionment over the unanticipated economic hardships in the “new land.” At the same time, it encouraged a fashion of lighthearted songs about “greenhorns”—a common tag for newly arrived, un-Americanized, and unadapted immigrants.
Also heard within this piece are allusions to the song Mazl tov (Congratulations), a prominent feature at wedding celebrations. The song probably stems from Europe, but it is also one of the best-retained customs among traditional Ashkenazi weddings in America.
The composer added a liturgical parameter with his incorporation of the now ubiquitous tune for the last line, or stanza, of the strophic prayer text avinu malkeinu (Our Father, Our King), as it is sung congregationally toward the conclusion of Yom Kippur—and of the pre–High Holy Days formal service inaugurating the daily recitation of the s’liḥot (penitential) liturgy. Although the melody is universal among American Ashkenazi synagogues and at the same time bespeaks an obvious eastern European modality, its origin remains undetermined. It is not found in any notated European sources.
Another, more contemporary song whose text is from the liturgy is also featured prominently: Ose shalom, the concluding Hebrew passage appended to the Aramaic full kaddish prayer. While the words are therefore liturgical, the song itself is not and was not so envisioned by its Israeli composer, Nurit Hirsch. It began its life as a winning entry in the Hassidic Song Festival in Israel, held in 1969, and it then became almost instantly popular in North America as an expression of the post–Six Day War atmosphere of enthusiastic optimism regarding eventual and permanent peace. Despite its nonliturgical origins, however, the melody was subsequently adopted in numerous American synagogues for the concluding kaddish recitation or at other places in the service, for congregational singing.
Y’rusha was composed in 1986 in London on a Consortium Commission grant from the National Endowment for the Arts—for clarinetists Richard Stoltzman, Michelle Zukovsky, and Larry Combs. Zukovsky played the premiere performances in 1987 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. Stock dedicated the piece to the memory of his grandmother, Eva Dizenfeld, who passed away at the age of ninety-three while he was writing it.
Editing: Pittsburgh Digital Recording & Editing Company
Mastering: Francisco J Rodriguez, Digital Dynamics Audio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Production Assistants: Jeffrey Stock and Rossen Milanov
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