Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi

“…Carterette tracks the music’s shape well, something he achieves again in Judith Shatin’s Chai Variations on Eliahu Ha’Navi. Here, it is explicitly a Jewish liturgy that is involved, and Shatin uses a Hebrew folksong associated with the end of the Sabbath, a call for the return of Elijah with the Messiah. The variation structure is clear to the ear; there is an almost Beethovenian aspect to Shatin’s workings, both in ruggedness and in deconstructive gesture (try the oscillations of the third variation, Lighthearted). The work came after Shatin had composed Elijah’s Chariot for amplified string quartet and shofar, so clearly there is a religio-thematic link (Elijah’s Chariot was on an Innova disc and reviewed by Maria Nockin and by myself—I also had the privilege of interviewing her—in Fanfare 37:6). One can occasionally hear parallels with Glass’s music (as in Variation VIII, Flamboyant); it would be interesting to hear if those links were as pronounced in a performance that was not preceded by some Glass. The highly Pointillistic nature of Variation XII (With cunning) cedes to the fascinating, almost dismissive chord pairings of the next variation before Shatin proves that tenderness absolutely can be achieved through decidedly post-tonal means. When the theme returns (XX, “Theme”) it carries a similar clarity than does, for example, the return of the Aria from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This is a magnificent piece of piano music that should be in many, many pianists’ repertoires…” – Colin Clarke, Fanfare Issue 44:2, (Nov/Dec 2020).

“…Pieces by Brooklyn native Jennifer Higdon, flutist Katherine Hoover, and China’s Jing Jing Luo serve as appetizers to the disc’s centerpiece — University of Virginia professor Judith Shatin’s 20-movement tour-de-force “Chai Variations”….”
–The Palm Beach Post

“…The most substantial work featured on the disc is Chai Variations, a 20-movement, 21-minute tour de force for solo piano by Judith Shatin that was inspired by the Jewish folksong “Eliahu HaNavi.” Chai, the 18th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is often used to represent the number 18 as well as life, hence Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and this set of 18 brief variations with a theme at the beginning and a recapitulation of the theme at the very end. Ernst shows a particular affinity for this music, having previously recorded a whole disc of Shatin’s music with violinist Hasse Borup which included the formidable solo piano piece Widdershins….”
–New Music Box (Frank J. Oteri)

“…a shapely, convincing set.”
–CD Reviews (Steve Hickman)

“…incredibly imaginative creations….”
–Terapija ( (translated from the Croatian)

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