Instrumentation: String Quartet
Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi was inspired by the folk song Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet), often sung during the closing service of the Jewish Sabbath. The letters of “Chai,” which means “life” or “living” in Hebrew, symbolically stand for the number 18; hence, 18 variations. I decided to give the performer(s) a choice regarding the ordering of the variations as a reflection of my sense of performance as a collaboration between performer and composer (and, for that matter, listener). It also reflects a dynamic conception of musical form. This means that there are 18! Or 6,402,373,705,728,000 possible orderings. In other words, six quadrillion, four-hundred-two trillion, three-hundred-seventy-three billion, seven-hundred-five million and seven-hundred-twenty-eight thousand possible versions! I composed this work while in residence at Brahmshaus in Baden-Baden during the summer of 1995. Originally scored for solo piano, Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi has been recorded by new music champion Mary Kathleen Ernst, on her album Keeping Time, and by the distinguished pianist Nathan Carterette on his Poets of the Piano – Acts of Faith CD, available directly. Both are available on multiple streaming services. I decided to create a version for String Quartet as I thought the timbres of the ensemble would create a fascinating timbral interplay, but still allow the compositional ideas to shine through.