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Matthew H. Fields
Matthew H. Fields
Composer
Selected Orchestral Works
 

Sages of Chelm

Listen

Audio Excerpt from first movement Listen to a brief excerpt of the first movement: click this paragraph for MP3 audio. The music is performed by Houston Sinfonia, directed by Larry Rachleff, featuring contrabassist Paul Ellison.


Audio Excerpt from third movement Listen to another brief excerpt--this one is from the third movement: click this paragraph for MP3 audio.

Duration

57 minutes


Pronunciation

The CH in Chelm and Simchas and the Kh in Khutzpah are all pronounced like th CH in Bach, or loch.

Program Note

"About 500 years ago, a kind of humorous story was going around Europe, based on the premise of The City of Fools. When European Jews started retelling these stories in Yiddish, they relocated the tales to cities which they knew. Eventually, they settled on the city of Chelm, in southeastern Poland.

"Chelm was host to a lively, scholarly, and industrious Jewish quarter from sometime in the 15th century until roughly 1940, when the ghetto was exterminated. The tales of Chelm are ironic in part because the real ghetto of Chelm was so scholarly, and in part because of the observation that, being fools, the fictional characters of the tales would suppose themselves to be the wisest of people. Long after other people had ceased telling such tales, the Jews of Europe continued to delight themselves and others with ever-wittier tales of foolishness. Their stories varied from simple slapstick to sophisticated wordplay and philosophical humor, and eventually became part of the wellsprings of Vaudville and modern American comedy. While they contain much that is particular to Jewish culture, they also comment broadly on hubris and the human condition.

"This piece was written in a romantic vein on the request of a bassist, and so the double bass has a prominent cantor-like role throughout. The three movements allude to melodies from Jewish liturgy and folklore, throughout, with unifying themes distilled from and abstracted from the borrowed materials. The first movement, Khutzpah (audacity), is based on torah trope; the middle movement, Tsores (misery), is based on haftara trope; and the finale, Simchas... (joy of...), is based on celebratory themes which my great-grandparents brought to Chicago from Bogoria, a city a couple hours drive west of Chelm."

--Matthew H. Fields

Instrumentation

  • 2 oboes
  • 2 horns
  • 8 violins
  • 3 violas
  • 2 violincellos
  • contrabass

The strings all have separate parts.

Years of Composition

1998-2001.

Score

Scores open in separate windows.


.PDF Click this paragraph to view or download the score and parts in Adobe Acrobat format.


Scorch Score If you have or are willing to install the SCORCH plug-in, you can click this paragraph to view the score in SCORCH format.


Big Scorch Score If you have or are willing to install the SCORCH plug-in, AND have a large (height=1024) monitor, you can click this paragraph to view the score large in SCORCH format.


Bigger Scorch Score If you have or are willing to install the SCORCH plug-in, AND have a larger (height=1200) monitor, you can click this paragraph to view the score larger in SCORCH format.