Paul Ben-Haïm absorbed oriental Jewish music through collaboration with Bracha Zfira, a Yemenite singer, for whom Ben-Haïm arranged some thirty-five songs between 1939 and 1951. One of the arrangements, that of the Ladino folksong Mama yo no tengo visto
made in 1939, is the Berceuse sfaradite
, one of Ben-Haïm’s most popular works. This beautiful lullaby was arranged in 1945 for violin and piano, as well as for various combinations of voices and instruments. The violin’s beguiling, undulating melody unfolds smoothly over lilting arpeggios, spiced by some caustic dissonances, and repeated in different registers, notably in the upper range where the melody gains a glowing bell-like resonance. Some dialogue enlivens the texture with the piano, which presents the melody before the violin’s final statement, which is sustained magically like a silken thread on a high trill, as the piano comes to rest in the dark and peaceful bass.
from notes by Malcolm Miller © 2007