Elijah’s Chariot

The Lyrics Quartet: Excerpt

Elijah’s Chariot Entire

Instrumentation: String Quartet and electronics

Duration: 19:45
Commission: Kronos Quartet and the National Endowment for the Arts
Premiere: 5/9/96
Kronos Quartet
Theatre Artaud,
San Francisco, CA

View Score | Purchase Music

Program Note:

Elijah’s Chariot was inspired by the Biblical story of the prophet Elijah, who was whirled up to heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. He was a prophet who wrought miracles and many tales exist of his return to earth to help Jews in trouble. It is also Elijah who is supposed to blow the shofar to announce the coming of the Messiah. The folk melody Eliyahu HaNavi, often sung during the close of the Sabbath, is woven into Elijah’s Chariot. The opening phrase of this melody forms a melodic thread in Elijah’s Chariot, emerging clearly at one point, and obliquely at others.

The scoring for string quartet and electronics reflects the story. The electronics, created from a recording of a shofar (ram’s horn), represent God’s call to Elijah. The string quartet mediates between this, sometimes imitating the calls, and the story of Elijah on earth. The original recording, by Dr. Mel Siegel of Minneapolis, was of shofar blasts played during the High Holidays. Elijah’s Chariot was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and is dedicated to the memory of Adam Francis Harrington. The Kronos Quartet toured it internationally, presenting it throughout Europe, the Middle and Far East, and the US, including the Next Wave Festival at BAM. –JS

Press Quotes:
“A splendid Elijah’s Chariot.” –Il Gazzettino

“[Elijah’s Chariot] generates a dense and affecting musical dialogue.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle

“The closing “Elijah’s Chariot” with The Cassatt String Quartet and electronics ends the album as a true Baal buster with lots of moments that are both cerebral and visceral.” – Jazz Weekly

“When you listen to her piece [‘Elijah’s Chariot’], you feel as though you too are being swept up to Heaven by strong winds. Shatin’s music is powerful and most distinctive. As performed here and recorded in Innova’s clear sound, it is also most inviting. I think anyone who is interested in the creation of new music should sample her offerings.” –Fanfare

“The instrumental pinnacle was Judith Shatlin’s “Elijah’s Chariot,” a symphonic poem for string quartet, with the four instruments representing the wheels of the prophet’s fiery conveyance to Heaven.” –Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The Shatin work…is a single long movement based on the sound of a shofar, a ram’s horn blown in the Jewish liturgy. That ancient sound is ingeniously manipulated electronically and serves as the point of departure for exploratory sonorities in the string quartet. In addition, the traditional Hebrew melody “Eliahu HaNvai” is introduced, developed and repeated in simple and elaborate variations at the end, played and hummed by the Cassatt Quartet. The work is inspired by the story of the biblical prophet Elijah and reflects his religious intensity. Shatin reveals her mastery of the union of the electronic medium and live performance in projecting a visionary experience.” –Charlottesville Weekly

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