Piece of the month

Each month we ask a composer to share a piece they love and tell us why

Katherine Blumer
Katherine Blumer

What piece have you chosen?

The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind – Osvaldo Golijov

Why is it special for you?

This piece is number 1 on my ‘bucket list’ of pieces to perform at some point in my life. Unpredictable throughout, I would describe it as a 30-minute meditative folk journey: the gorgeous juxtaposition of the glassy, peaceful introduction (which Golijov compares to a “celestial accordion”), moving to the raw angst of the first movement, before travelling through more meditative movements and a tranquil, peaceful ending. Golijov’s unique timbres and techniques come from a fusion of his Jewish heritage and his Argentinan upbringing, providing a unique compositional voice combining klezmer, liturgical and Latin quotations. Calming and hypnotic mixed with fiery and frenzied: I find it’s one of the few pieces which will give me goosebumps every time!

What should we listen out for?

Each movement has a clear klezmer influence within the tonal quality of the ensemble and techniques used, but pushes each instrumentalist to its technical limitations. In this respect, listen out for the stratospheric but gorgeous top notes on the bass clarinet in the first movement: the timbre of the bass clarinet gives these notes a fragile, wailing quality. The use of klezmer embellishments is gorgeous in this piece, particularly within the introduction; Golijov’s use of ornamentation within this movement frames the remainder of the piece beautifully.

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Katherine Blumer

Katherine Blumer is a facilitator, clarinettist and teacher based in Manchester, soon to be studying a Music and Wellbeing masters at the University of Leeds on the Head of School Excellence scholarship. Her facilitation career has taken her to leading workshops in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, care homes and prisons. Alongside performing in classical, contemporary and klezmer concerts, Katherine combines her love for facilitation and performance with academic research and teaching (both music and TEFL). As well as beginning to integrate other cross-collaboratory art forms into her career, she is a keen body painter and works as a life model. Katherine is a graduate of the ‘Joint Course’ between the University of Manchester and the RNCM, and was awarded the Undergraduate of the Year at Manchester University during her studies.

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