(on Albanian and Greek folk melodies)

Version for string quintet, clarinet, and harp Score (Extract, Pdf)
Version for string quintet, clarinet, and piano

Premiere of the version with harp: 2006 with the ensemble The Philharmonics
Duration: ca. 8 minutes

Audio sample:

René Staar - Sephardische Weisen

The Philharmonics, Impro by Shkelzen Doli & Frantisek Jánoska, Oktober 2009
(with kind permission from the CD »Souvenir de Bohème«)


René Staar: Notes to the Sephardic Airs

As I was a young boy, my father brought me into direct contact with the traditions of eastern Europe. On the one hand, because his own arrangements of popular folk melodies from Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania (together with waltzes and Wiener Lieder) were part of the repertory of his quartet of violin, piano, accordion, and bass; and also because he took me to hear Hungarian gypsy bands, jazz singers, etc.

As Tibor Kovác asked me to write a piece for his newly founded group Philharmonics, I had the opportunity to try my hand in a métier that I see today as one of the possibilities for modernizing popular music, of releasing it from the rigidity of clichés that my father had already seen as outmoded and conventional.

Shkelzen Doli acquainted me with folk melodies from Albania and Greece, whose contours had however already been known to me in my youth. I worked out these melodies in a sonata movement with primary and secondary themes, a development section, and a varied recapitulation. I created not only the instrumentation but also the overall form, as well as the manner of development, the harmony and modulations, the varied reprise, and the stretto in the coda.

I enjoyed the work so much that after the successful premiere I couldn’t resist writing another piece in the same style: Les Deux Diables, a Romanian Hora in which the harmony is continuously restructured. The ambivalence of major and minor thirds and sixths is in this »quasi« double concerto for 2 violins worked out to the full, more than was the case in the Sephardic Airs. {Translation: Jorge E. López}