Movement 1: Stempenyu plays
Movement 2: Scher
Movement 3: Freilachs
The three pieces of the Stempenyu Suite show Achron’s creative response to the klezmer folk tradition, transforming simple melodies through artful harmonies and textures. Stempenyu plays introduces the hero’s fervent style through a richly eloquent tune, etched over gentle chords, and repeated an octave higher with ornamentation that recalls the vocal improvisation of a synagogue cantor, yet coloured with modal harmony. Scher and Freilachs are lively dances (‘freylach’ is the Yiddish for ‘happy’). In Scher Achron retains the folkish quality of the melody, especially its traditional modal cadence and simple accompaniment. The repeat of the initial phrase is followed by a second phrase which reaches ever higher, over a newly flowing piano texture. The final return of the initial phrase is freshly garbed, again at a higher octave, with polytonal harmonies and bell-like harmonics. The Suite concludes with the zestful, highly syncopated Freilachs, which appears to convey Stempenyu’s almost hysterical wizardy. Achron exploits some violinistic resources like pizzicato strumming at the start, and the music develops into an increasingly energetic dance, enlivened by a recurrent, leaping motif. Once again a repeat of the opening an octave higher leads to a frenetic coda.
from notes by Malcolm Miller © 2012