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Divertimento from Gimpel the Fool (1982)

Chamber Music Northwest, July,1982. David Shifrin, clarinet; Theodore Arm, violin; Fred Sherry, cello; William Doppmann, piano. CD by Delos, 1989. 20’. Published by MMB.

Comment: This was the first piece of many written for David Shifrin and Chamber Music Northwest who have given me a wonderful sense of how Haydn must have felt as court composer at Ezsterhazy. It is also my most popular piece and has been performed just about everywhere, but most memorably in the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris. The Divertimento is drawn from several numbers in the opera. The movements are: Overture/the Rabbi; Wedding Song; Bread Song; Badkhen’s Song/Mazel Tov.

Review: “For those of us not clued in on this corner of folk music, the divertimento had a pleasing exoticism spiced with pungent harmonies, rhapsodic tunes and lively rhythms. Schiff neatly brought the 20th century into this by using subtle dissonances to create atmosphere and tension. The result was music that seemed Jewish not only in sound but in spirit—passionate, exuberant, melancholy and occasionally grim in outlook. Here was music with both good tunes and emotional character. With his apparent ability to entertain and move the listener Schiff would seem to be a natural theater composer.” Robert Lindstrom, The Oregonian, 2 July 1982.