From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez

  • Composer: Abbie Betinis 
  • Publisher: Self-Published - contact the composer/arranger
  • Cat No: AB-049-02
  • Canadian Work: No
  • Duration: 13:00

Program Notes:

Note from the composer: Johann Wolfgang Goethe once wrote, “Only with you, Hâfez, do I wish to compete, for the older you get the younger you become. . . And religion is no obstacle, for if the word “lslam” means to submit to God, we all live and die in Islam. Khwajeh Shams al-Din Muhammad Hâfez-e Shirazi (ca. 1320-1390) was born in Shiraz, Persia (Iran). He wrote nearly 400 lyric poems, called ghazals, and is the undisputed master of that particular poetic form. His mystical writing is based on Sufism, a tradition of Islam that is associated both with the Sunni and Shia denominations, as well as many other currents of Islam.

I was particularly drawn to these four ghazals because of the elegant way they depict longing;longing for Truth, longing for Reason, longing for Kindness, Love, and – always – longing for the Beloved. Also, as I was reading, I found that many of Hâfez’s poems seem to have in common beautiful metaphors of transience: fire, breath, breeze. Above all, I have tried desperately to remain true to the intonation of the language, and to Hâfez’s poetic instinct. Each poem unfortunately had to be shortened to create a concert piece, but I encourage anyone to seek out the original poems in their entirety. Special thanks to my friend Behrooz Alavi for his insights into Hâfez’;s poetry, its pronunciation, and its rich performance practice.

The music is my own, and not authentically Persian. It is my interpretation of an assortment of influences, including my study of Persian speech, scales and modes, but perhaps also from my distant memory of being four years old and dancing – joyfully and tirelessly – with my Greek relatives to music that whirled feverishly around me.

Conductor Notes:

This extended work (five movements) totalling 13 minutes is scored for women’s choir (SSA and SSAA in various movements), viola (or cello), Persian percussion, and optional oud. Learning and performing this piece is a satisfying journey into the Farsi (Persian) language, driving rhythms, exquisitely beautiful quieter passages, and the unique accompanying texture of a solo stringed instrument and Persian instruments. There are ample opportunities for soloists, including those who can belt in the style. The resources Abbie provides on her website, including recordings of three full and very fine performances are a great help in learning the work.

Composer / Arranger Notes:

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