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EVENT: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

Sun, Mar 23, 2008 at 4:00 PM


Listen to Isaac the Blind

Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, San Francisco

Osvaldo Golijov, composer, performed by The Bridge Players.

Blindness is as important in this work as dreaming and praying. Composer Osvaldo Golijov has said that, “in order to achieve the highest possible intensity in a performance, musicians should play, metaphorically speaking, ‘blind’. Blindness is probably the secret of great string quartets, those who don’t need their eyes to communicate among them, with the music, or the audience.” Blindness, then, reminds one of the earliest compositions: art that sprang from and relies on our ability to sing and hear, with the power to build castles of sound in our memories.

Eight centuries ago Isaac the Blind, the great kabbalist rabbi of Provence, dictated a manuscript in which he asserted that all things and events in the universe are products of combinations of the Hebrew alphabet’s letters: ‘Their root is in a name, for the letters are like branches, which appear in the manner of flickering flames, mobile, and nevertheless linked to the coal’.

In homage to Issac the Blind, the movements of this work sound as if written in three of the different languages spoken by the Jewish people throughout history. The prelude and the first movement reflect the most ancient, in Aramaic; the second movement is in Yiddish, the rich and fragile language of a long exile; the third movement and postlude are in sacred Hebrew.

This program will also include String Quartet in E minor by Felix Mendelssohn and Lullaby by George Gershwin.

The Bridge Players (Randall Weiss and Leslie Ludena, violin, Natalia Vershilovsa, viola, Robert Howard and Victoria Ehrlich, cello) were formed in 2001 by violinist Randall Weiss. As the ensemble-in-residence for Music in the Mishkan chamber music series at Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco. For more information on Music in the Mishkan or the Bridge Players, visit the Sha’ar Zahav website, call 415.861.6932 ×304 or email

Performer bios:

The Jewish Music Festival is a program of the
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