No 1: Blue Window 'Ruben': Con moto
No 2: Green Window 'Issachar': Andantino pastorale
No 3: Red Window 'Zebulon', Risoluto e drammatico
No 4: Golden Window 'Levi': Festivo
The Blue Window represents the ever-moving waves of the sea, with its richness of fish and circling bird life. The Green Window is pastoral in contrast, with the donkey (with the human expression so typical of Chagall’s animals) in the meadow, rich in flowers and vines. The Red Window blazes with sunlight, again the sea being central but now alive with leaping marine life. The Golden Window is rich in light, the candles of liturgical ceremony and the fruit of the earth. Eben sees this setting as more religious in content, marking also Chagall’s Russian and Jewish origins. This he does by introducing a hymn from the Russian Orthodox liturgy into the first part, given out on the organ’s 8-foot Principal stop. It can be recognized also as that which Tchaikovsky used in his festival overture 1812. The trumpet’s contribution, cantor-like, makes use of elements of the synagogue songs.
To compensate for the practical problems of the mechanical and acoustic delays often experienced between an organ playing with other instruments, Eben cleverly introduces a degree of improvisation or free rhythm which he also sees as something which ‘brings out a slight change of light with each new performance’, so ‘creating the same impression as that generated by stained-glass windows, varying according to the angle at which the glass is penetrated by the rays of sunlight during different parts of the day’. The first performance was given on 31 March 1977 in the Smetana Hall, Prague, with Vladislav Kozderka (trumpet) and Milan Šlechta (organ).
from notes by Graham Melville-Mason © 2006