“These songs are profoundly personal for me.”
Eric Whitacre | Five Hebrew Love Songs
Composer’s notes and texts
In the spring of 1996, my great friend and brilliant violinist Friedemann Eichhorn invited me and my girlfriend-at-the-time Hila Plitmann (a soprano) to give a concert with him in his home city of Speyer, Germany. We had all met that year as students at the Juilliard School and were inseparable.
Because we were appearing as a band of traveling musicians, “Friedy” asked me to write a set of troubadour songs for piano, violin, and soprano. I asked Hila (who was born and raised in Jerusalem) to write me a few “postcards” in her native tongue, and a few days later she presented me with these exquisite and delicate Hebrew poems. I set them while we vacationed in a small skiing village in the Swiss Alps, and we performed them for the first time a week later in Speyer.
In 2001, the University of Miami commissioned me to adapt the songs for SATB chorus and string quartet, and the Efroni Choir in Israel commissioned me to adapt them for SA, violin, and piano, leaving me now with five (!) different versions of the same work: SATB and string quartet; SATB, violin, and piano; SA and string quartet; SA violin and piano; and the original soprano, violin, and piano. The choral parts are exactly the same for the different accompaniments, so that if the choir wants to perform the version with string quartet, the chorus can sing from the piano/violin score and the conductor can lead from the quartet version.
Each of these songs captures a moment that Hila and I shared together. “Kala Kalla” (which means “light bride”) was a pun I came up with while she was first teaching me Hebrew. The bells at the beginning of “Eyze Shelleg” are the exact pitches that awakened us each morning in Germany as they rang from a nearby cathedral.
These songs are profoundly personal for me, born entirely out of my new love for this soprano, poet and now my beautiful wife, Hila Plitmann.
— Eric Whitacre