Lullaby for an Ancient Grandfather

Premiered by Michaela Harel at the Graduate Center of CUNY, November of 1997. The orchestral version was conducted by Simon Chang at Harris Hall, Aspen Music Festival, in July of 1998.

The piece has been also performed by pianists Jessie Chang and Bertrand Giraud.

The piece is based on two Yiddish folk tunes that my grandfather used to sing to me when I was a child: 'Tsen Brider' (Ten Brothers) and 'Oifn Pripenchok' (By the Fireside). These songs were among of the spare fragments that my grandfather remembered of his own childhood and his mother tongue. When he sang them, the whole family used to gather round and sing with him, happy to bridge the distance between generations.

In time, and long after my grandfather had passed away, I discovered that the "original" melodies were not exactly the way he used to sing them. At first I was puzzled at the changes that, perhaps unknowingly, my grandfather had introduced into these seemingly well-known tunes, and concluded that his memory had failed him. But in time I came to understand that such is the fate of all our memories: they change shape, are molded by the accidents of life, and gradually lose their precision.

As though in a dream, my Lullaby joins both songs, separated by recurring episodes and bridges, into a single movement of recollection. The melodies, at first clear and simple, are gradually surrounded by an increasingly removed harmonic and motivic environment. All is suffused by the hazy aura of my grandfather's image.

Lullaby for an Ancient Grandfather© was a First Prize Winner of the 1998 Composition Competition of the Jewish Music Commission of Los Angeles.

"...We are grateful to the artist for bringing us Martin Kutnowski's Lullaby for an Ancient Grandfather in its premier performance. Kutnowski, like Trenchi Bottazzi, is a native of Argentina; both now live in New York. Kutnowski ... has been the recipient of awards and scholarships by The National Endowment of the Arts, the Fulbright Commission, and ASCAP, among other organizations of international renown. His compositions, such as the Lullaby played here, offer a unique voice of folk and international fusion. Old Jewish lullabies, half-remembered over the years, drawn into an Argentine present, with the sapient tools of general Western compositional techniques and recollections, result in a magical work of dreamy depths. As with all Kutnowski's writing for piano, it never fights the instrument, but rather settles into its parameters and gently stretches and widens the idiom. Ms. Trenchi Bottazzi afforded it a loving performance and shared the great applause with the composer, who was present...."

Darrell Rosenbluth, The New York Concert Review

Read full review of Ana Maria Trenchi's 2003 recital at Carnegie Hall

Copyright © 1997 by Martín Kutnowski, ASCAP. All rights reserved.
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