“The Providence Singers ... opening entrance in the final movement was breathtaking”
Channing Gray
Providence Journal
6 May 2013
(Mahler Symphony No. 2)


Eric Whitacre
Eric Whitacre
“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

I. Temuná

Temuná bilibí charutá;
Nodédet beyn ór uveyn ófel:
Min dmamá shekazó et guféch kach otá,
Sara’ich al paná’ich kach nófel.

I. A Picture

A picture is engraved in my heart;
Moving between light and darkness:
A sort of silence envelopes your body,
And your hair falls upon your face just so.

II. Kalá Kallá

Kalá kallá
Kulá shelí
Tishák hí lí!

II. Light Bride

Light bride
She is all mine,
And lightly
She will kiss me!

III. Lárov

“Lavróv,” amár gag la’shama’im,
“Hamerchák shebeynéynu huad;
Ach lifnéy zman alu lechán shna’im,
Uveynéynu nishár sentiméter echad.”

III. Mostly

“Mostly,” said the roof to the sky,
“the distance between you and I is endlessness;
But a while ago two came up here,
and only one centimeter was left between us.”

IV. Éyze Shéleg!

Éyze shéleg!
Kmo chalomót ktaním
Noflím mehashamá’im.

IV. What Snow!

What snow!
Like little dreams
Falling from the sky.

V. Rakút

Hu hayá malé rakút;
Hi haytá kashá.
Vechól káma shenistá lihishaér kach,
Pashút, uvlí sibá tová,
Lakáchotá el toch atzmó,
Veheníach Bamakóm hachi rach.

V. Tenderness

He was full of tenderness;
She was very hard.
And as much as she tried to stay thus,
Simply, and with no good reason,
He took her into himself,
And set her down
in the softest, softest place.