Harmonize Your SpirIt with My Calm

Джоэл Мандельбаум и Леонард Лерман оба американские композиторы, потомоки еврейев, родившихся в далёких уголках Российской Империй (Бабруйске и Лереле [Беларус], Одессе [Украина], Самаре, и Литве). Оба получают удовольствие от исполнения их произведений американским сопрано Хэлин Уильямс, чья бабушка родилась в Русской Польше, и которая выступала с Лерманом 600 раз c 1987 г., на 17 языках  - по-русски с 1999 г.


Joel Mandelbaum and Leonard Lehrman are both American composers descended from Jews born in the far reaches of the Russian Empire (Bobruisk and Lepel [Belarus], Odessa [Ukraine], Samara, and Lithuania). Both have enjoyed hearing their works sung by American soprano Helene Williams, whose grandmother was born in Russian Poland, and who has performed with Lehrman 600 times since 1987 in 17 languages (Russian since 1999).



Prelude Joel Mandelbaum

Mandelbaum’s Prelude (1950) was written “when I was 17 and just learning to substitute 4ths for 3rds.” Prelude was first recorded by Leonard Lehrman on Capstone CPS 8661 (http://www.capstonerecords.org/CPS-8661.html).


8 Russian Songs  Leonard Lehrman


Lehrman’s 8 Russian Songs, set to music in Russian, with singable English texts by the composer, date from 1970 to 2015. The Khlebnikov was premiered by Frohwalte Pilz in West Berlin in honor of the poet’s centennial 11/22/1985, and received its English-language premiere 8/5/2016 at a naturist festival, fittingly enough since it utilizes the metaphor of nudity as freedom. (For a playlist of publicly viewable YouTube videos on that theme, click here) All the others have had numerous performances, including concerts in Moscow (1985), Minsk and Vitebsk (2016). Lehrman described the earliest of these, on a Mayakovsky text, in his article posted early in 2016 by the Russian music journal, Проблемы музыкальной науки ("Music Scholarship"):


I was a junior at Harvard, wrestling with the desire to create something classic of lasting value (as opposed to ephemeral pop), in conflict with the anger displayed in the streets everywhere, over the brutalities of race, class, and war, and the indifference of most of the elite to the sufferings of the powerless. Drawing on reading I’d done for a class I’d taken as a freshman in Russian Literature of the Soviet Period, I found my answer in Vladimir Mayakovsky’s 11-part poem, “Люблю,“ specifically the fourth section, “Мой Университет “ (“My University”).  In setting the Russian text to music, I simultaneously wrote an English text to go with it, varying the rhythm, though not the contour, of the melody, occasionally to accommodate extra syllables…. The setting was virtually complete, with a few judicious cuts, like references to Dobroliubov and Barbarossa, and the bitterness came through, especially toward academics.


Designed to be performed in Russian or English, it was performed in both languages, one after the other, in two performances in quick succession: May 1, 1970 at Harvard’s Dunster House by baritone Rip Keller and two days later at a Massachusetts Federation of Music Clubs concert at Boston University by bass-baritone Gregory Sandow, each accompanied by the composer. Recordings of the performances were broadcast over Harvard Radio WHRB and, in March 1979, over Pacifica Radio WBAI in New York. I sang the work myself, from the piano, at a lecture in Sergei Slonimsky’s class at the Leningrad Conservatoire in October 1971, and again at the Moscow Youth Festival in August 1985. In between, Viennese bass Walter Fink performed it with me at a May 1982 concert sponsored by the Gesellschaft für Musiktheater at the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna. The New York premiere came April 30, 1993 at Lehman College, as part of a Mayakovsky Centennial celebration with star participants Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Professor Patricia Thompson, who revealed herself to be Mayakovsky’s and Lily Brik’s daughter, born of their affair in Paris. The NY Times characterized my music as “neat, spare, retiring in tone, rigorously contrapuntal, removed from the push and pull of tonal language,” noting that the African American singer “Charles Samuel Brown sang it pleasantly in both Russian and English. The composer played the piano.”


Lehrman first heard the Blok poem, Benediction, read by Prof. Ephim Fogel in memory of Paul Gottschalk at Cornell in the summer of 1977, and decided to set it to music, dedicating it to both of them. Helene sang it at Emily Lehrman’s unveiling, May 8, 2016, and many other times.


The Fet, Krylov, and Derzhavin poems, each containing imagery of birds, form a mini-cycle, Songs of Birds (Песни птиц), also composed in 1977, inspired by and dedicated to Galina Vishnevskaya, but never performed by her. Louise Wohlafka, with English hornist Richard Nass, both of the Metropolitan Opera, Natasha Jitomirskaia and Nancy Ogle are among those who have performed at least parts of it, in English. The Krylov in particular is a “party piece” with which Lehrman has had the pleasure of entertaining numerous folks, most recently Sergei Slonimsky on July 4, 2016.


Pushkin’s poem, Winter Morning, writes Lehrman, “has special meaning to me, as it was sent me by my mother in Feb., 1986, as a form of consolation, when my first marriage broke up, encouraging the taking of joy in the beauties of nature, and life.  Frohwalte Pilz premiered it in West Berlin; Anastasiya Roytman performed it in my mother’s memory Nov. 22, 2015 at Queens College, preceding the first performance of Dargomyzhsky’s Rusalka in our English translation, also in her memory, made possible in part by Joel Mandelbaum’s Maldeb Foundation.”


Galina Leybovich, a chorister in that Rusalka performance, is also a published poet in New York, in Russian, a native of Gomel, in Belarus, whose assistance in matters Russian has been invaluable to this project. The 2015 setting of her poem rounds out the set.


Lehrman’s cycle of 8 Russian songs represents a gradual tonal movement from C via Bb to A.  A mostly minor mode of C is the key of the two a cappella pieces (1 Blok & 5 Derzhavin) with each ending on a quasi-Phrygian dominant G, descending from Bb. The second piece (Khlebnikov) begins on a Bb and ends on C sharp, the enharmonic of Db which begins the third piece (Fet) that modulates in a Neapolitan fashion to D, which serves as the dominant of the dominant in a return to C in the Krylov, which however ends on the same D.


The Derzhavin then repeats the harmonic outline of the opening Blok. The primary tonality of the Mayakovsky is also C minor, though it ends on a dominant-centered dissonance. The Pushkin then begins on a Bb7 chord that resolves like an augmented sixth chord into A minor, flirting however with C minor and resolving again on a Phrygian G. The final piece, the only one written in this century, resolves the tension by modulating to D minor but also ends with a quasi-Phrygian cadence, on A.


Chaconne  Joel Mandelbaum

Mandelbaum’s Chaconne (1977), based on an unchanging ostinato in D minor, ascending: D,D#,E,F,F#,G,G#,A and resolving directly to D and starting again, underpins traditionally tonal music, as it modulates from D minor through Eb, C, and Db majors before returning to D major and then minor: a life’s voyage through triumph and loss. Much music is based on modulations to remote keys and return. How much is a listener to retain consciousness of the original key during the departures? Some analysts insist: very much so. They refer to remote keys as “dissonant” against the retained sense of the home key. I have tried to shed a new light on this sense that the original key is always present by making it….always present. The ground bass is a perpetual reminder of the home key, even as the music strays and the phrase rhythms move with the upper voices. The piece was the result of an assignment given a particularly gifted theory class.


Bloody Kansas  Leonard Lehrman

Lehrman’s Bloody Kansas was a class “commission,” involving one-minute pieces commemorating important events in US history, written for Juan Orrego-Salas’s orchestration class at Indiana University, where Lehrman was a doctoral student in opera conducting, 1975-76. The title refers to the era of John Brown’s anti-slavery raids, and also the birthplace of the composer, whose father was in the army, stationed at Fort Riley, 1948-50. Joel Mandelbaum conducted the first public performances of the work at Queens College and Hunter College, which was subsequently choreographed and incorporated into one of Robert Voisey’s collages of 60 1-minute pieces.


In Sainte-Chapelle  Joel Mandelbaum

In Sainte Chapelle (2002) is described by Mandelbaum as “probably my most representative work on this recording. In 1999, while my wife Ellen was working on a glass project in Europe, I joined her in Paris and went with her as she spent about two hours drawing inspiration from the stained glass in that famous church. I brought music manuscript paper and was also inspired. Three themes emerged spontaneously: the opening trumpet motif, suggested by the austerely spiritual architecture; the undulating strings, suggested by the endless alternation of glass and stone; and the flute melody evoking the soft light of the clerestory windows. The first two minutes of the piece unfolded as I sat there. In order to figure out how to proceed thereafter, I read about the glass. It represented a complete narrative of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  When I learned that it was those particularly beautiful clerestory windows that depicted Revelation, with its fiery destruction for all but the truest believers, I felt stymied and discouraged and put the work aside, I thought permanently. My reaction to 9/11 was that the world was filled with fanatics ready to actualize the horrible prophecies of the Book of Revelation, and therefore that the illusion that such an ending to the world is beautiful must be confronted. I took up the work again, introducing an element of fire and brimstone to the lyrical theme and trying to purify it of this destructive element. The gentle ending (with microtones) reflects my view that it is more important for the artist to guide toward resolution than to stir indignation over the shortcomings of the world.”


An Elizabeth Gurley Flynn Love Song Cycle  Leonard Lehrman

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Aug. 7, 1890 – Sept. 5, 1964) was an American labor leader who died, writing her memoirs, in Moscow. She was the inspiration for Joe Hill’s song “Rebel Girl,” a founding member of both the American Communist Party and the American Civil Liberties Union, and a lifelong friend of Corliss Lamont (Mar. 28, 1902 – Apr. 26, 1995), who brought her work to Leonard Lehrman’s attention in 1986. In July 1993, Lehrman contacted her biographer, Rosalyn Baxandall (June 12, 1939 – Oct. 13, 2015) and learned of the existence of numerous poems she had written in 1939 to her lover, the anarchist Carlo Tresca (Mar. 9, 1879 – Jan. 11, 1943). From them, Lehrman fashioned a cycle of seven songs, which Lamont commissioned, and which was dedicated to him, his wife Beth Lamont, Rosalyn Baxandall, and Helene Williams.  Premiered by Williams and the composer at Bethpage Library March 4, 1994, it had further performances with Composers Concordance at the Kosciuszko Foundation, March 11, 1994; WESPAC in memory of Lamont, June 3, 1995, and in LICA “Songs of Love” concerts at North Merrick Library February 5, 1995 and Hicksville Library March 2, 1997, where it was recorded for Capstone. Text used by permission of Elizabeth Barnett, literary executor.


String Quartet #2  Joel Mandelbaum

Mandelbaum’s String Quartet #2 (1962-78) is described by him as “an outlier among my works. Though I have found no satisfaction in composing serial music, I did once entertain the thought ‘what if the serialists are right?’  This was my one attempt to put my own stamp on serial procedures.  My ‘set’ is 16 pitches, including all 12 notes in order, with four used twice. But unable to keep a full set of 12 pitches in mind simultaneously, I derive my set from a single group of four notes, transposed upward three times.


Connecting the high notes in the set produces a ‘standard’ octatonic scale. So does connecting the lower notes. This fact emerged in my consciousness only long after I had finished the piece. But I realized from the outset that there were six possible permutations of the intervals comprising the tetrad on which the set is based: 1, 2, 4 and 5 semitones. The middle movement is a free, tonal movement in sonata form, but staying melodically and harmonically with groups of these intervals.


The outer movements play with some of the ‘avant-garde’ ideas around in 1962. They are the (slightly modified) retrograde of one another. In each, the shortest variation is a single 16-note chord formed as all four players sweep their bows across all four strings. The longest variation is an open-ended algorithm which would give infinite ascending sequences of pitch if the players could play and ears hear notes that high. Played diminuendo, accelerando and piü e piü sul ponticello while ascending to unplayable pitches, the first movement disappears into space, the premise of its last variation only partially fulfilled. There is one lyrical variation in each outer movement where the imperatives of seriality are more loosely applied.

The cited page, from the final variation of the first movement, shows the algorithm in action. Note that tetrads formed by permutations of 1,2,4 and 5 semitones account for every simultaneity, and every succession of 4 consecutive notes in every part, no matter on which note you start.


For those wishing to keep track of variations, so very elastic in the use of time:


The THEME presents the 16 notes of the set in groups of dyads, combining to form tetrads.  The dyads in the set alternate between perfect 5ths (or 4ths) and tritones.  The tritones form links between the perfect dyads, with which they are linked in a complementary manner. The presentation is attenuated, but doesn’t go beyond the initial 16 pitches.


Variations 1, 2, and 3 are quick and form a group: Variation 1 presents the 16 notes pizzicato, strung out,  four notes to each instrument. In Variation 2, the same figures overlap; in variation 3, simultaneous bowed quadruple stops render the entire theme as a single chord.


Variation 4 is somewhat more conventional, alternating measures of 3/4 and 6/8 and there is some transposition of the set. Variation 5 is the lyrical interlude. Some passing and neighbor tones not part of the set are admitted as first the viola and later the first violin imitated by the second take up singing lines. Variation 6 introduces the idea of perpetual stretto canon as every instrument takes up a sequential figure of three rising steps followed by a descending leap. The highest note for each instrument falls on a different beat.


Variation 7 is another descending canon involving repeating leaping figures in all parts.  It begins with only the two violins but quickly acquires full quartet participation. It elides directly into Variation 8, which starts as a series of descending leaps in the first violin and viola, picked up by the other instruments. Then, in the middle, retaining the same algorithm to determine successive pitches, it changes course, replacing steep falling intervals  with less steep rising ones. Top pitches throughout this variation are achieved by the different instruments on successive eighth notes. The particular pattern gradually lowers the pitches of all the instruments until everyone is in first position and the second violin even has to sustain its open G as it has nowhere farther to go until, still in the same variation, a single note is added to the rising pattern, which establishes 5 beats to the bar and causes all the figures…gradually…to rise in pitch. The algorithm determines the succession of pitches and is potentially infinite. It would be possible to determine the correct pitches far beyond the audible range…in theory, the performance of over 20 years ago is still going, millions of octaves above the audible range. I have indicated pitches beyond the probably playable and indicated an optional stopping point for any player, seven  bars before the notation stops, though each player may, if able, continue into those last seven notated measures. To accompany the rise in pitch toward inaudibility (and beyond the range where fingers are nimble enough to articulate pitches) I also call for diminuendo toward inaudibility, accelerando toward where notes run into one another, and, in case that were not enough, increasing choking of the sound by bowing nearer and nearer to the bridge. In short, the music is to disappear in four dimensions without actually stopping in any of them.


The last movement generally runs the first movement backwards. It is obviously far more difficult to have music begin indeterminately than to have it end that way, so I have  started with the second violin alone holding a very high note, tremolo, then adding the other instruments as the five note figure that ascended in the first movement begins to descend here. Each instrument enters with a sustained tremolo before jumping into the figure, which is not fully joined until the 9th measure (which is the exact retrograde of the fourth measure before the option to stop kicked in in the first movement). I call this Variation 9, and it glides seamlessly into Variation 10, the retrograde of Variation 7.


The retrograde of Variation 6 is delayed.  Before it occurs (as Variation 12), appears the parallel  (not exactly a retrograde) of the lyrical Variation 5, commenting expressively, led by the first violin.


The retrograde resumes with Variation 12 (from Variation 6) and Variation 13 (the alternating 3/4 and 6/8 of Variation 4). Eight measures of expressive coda then intervene, before the inversions of Variations 1, 2, and 3  occur…not in retrograde order…the instruments first separate  then overlapping, then simultaneous just as in variations 1, 2 and 3…the order of the first three variations NOT reversed, though the chords are arpeggiated downward instead of upward and begin with the violin instead of the cello. The ending is a retrograde of the theme itself.  Whatever coda the work possessed happened between variations 12 and 13. A little cap is affixed by the viola. The  almost retrograde spelling of the word “Variations” within the title of the third movement represents the almost retrograde  of the music. Certain short variations are played in the forward order, just as the letters i-o are retained in the spelling.


The middle movement is a conventional sonata-allegro in D major. Nonetheless, the four-note cluster which determined the shape of everything in the outer movements still holds sway. As the octave is broken down by the four-note cluster, the intervals (arranged in scalar order) are 5, 4, 2 and 1 semitones. Allowing all six permutations of those four intervals, there are six distinct tetrads. The tonal character of the movement is supported by the fact that two of these tetrads contain major triads, two contain minor triads, and the other two, with superimposed fourths, comfortably fit into diatonic scales:


The intervals in ascending order from the smallest:


1,2,4,5 (A,Bb,c,E) contains a minor triad.

1,2,5,4 (A,Bb,C,F) contains a major triad

1,4,2,5 (A,Bb,D,E) no triad but all in F major scale

1,4,5,2 (A,Bb,D,G) contains a minor triad

1,5,2,4 (A,Bb,Eb, F) no triad but all in Bb major scale

1,5,4,2 (A,Bb, Eb,G) contains a major triad


Though not as strictly applied as in the outer movements, this family of tetrads determines most of the melodic choices in this movement as well.  I have concluded that this one string quartet contains all the experimentation with serial pitch, octotonality and the elasticity of time that I care to do over a lifetime. Here I have given all of these elements my best shot. trying to synthesize my own, tonally oriented sensibility with what many regard as the collective imperatives of our era. The idea that Milton Babbitt impressed upon all his pupils in Tanglewood in 1957, that every note should somehow be related according to a fixed formula to all its surrounding notes, has been, as the saying goes, applied with a vengeance.


String Quartet #2 is a re-release from an album Diverse Light.


Love Is Not All  Joel Mandelbaum

“Love Is Not All,” a 1959 setting of a poem from Fatal Interview (1931) by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Feb. 22, 1892-Oct. 19, 1950), is from Mandelbaum’s first song cycle. “Its unflinchingly orthodox tonality,” he writes, “has more in common with my recent songs than with the other songs in this cycle.” It was recorded by Williams & Lehrman in February 1999 and released that year on Capstone’s More Songs of Love album. Text used by permission of copyright owner Norma Millay Ellis.


Said album was made possible in part by generous grants from Mark Kingdon, the Maldeb Foundation and from the Professor Edgar H. Lehrman Memorial Foundation for Ethics, Religion, Science & the Arts, Inc. The latter also contributed considerably to the making of this recording.


For a playlist of 32 videos including talks and performances by Leonard Lehrman and Helene Williams involving Joel Mandelbaum and/or his music, please click here.




Leonard Lehrman would like to acknowledge the inspiration of his many teachers, for whom there was room to acknowledge only a few in the printed notes; in chronological order: Lenore Anhalt, Joseph Cichello, Elie Siegmeister, Olga Heifetz, Norman Belink, Peter Jaffe, Harold Gilmore, Elizabeth Korte, Kyriena Siloti, David Lewin, Earl Kim, David Del Tredici, James Harrison, James Yannatos, Harry Levin, Nadia Boulanger, Jean-Jacques Painchaud, Lukas Foss, Leon Kirchner, Boris Goldovsky, Erik Werba, Karel Husa, William Austin, George Gibian, Robert Palmer, Tibor Kozma, Wolfgang Vacano, Juan Orrego-Salas, Donald Erb, John Eaton, Herbert A. Deutsch, and of course, first and foremost: Emily R. Lehrman.


Joel Mandelbaum would also like to acknowledge more of his teachers than there was room to mention elsewhere:

Angela Diller, Gertrude Price Wollner, Helen Grant Baker, Homer Keller, Andre Singer, Paul Hindemith, Luther Noss, Walter Piston, Luigi Dallapiccola, Lukas Foss, Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, Aaron Copland; Boris Blacher and Ewald Lindemann (on a Fulbright in Berlin); Bernhard Heiden, Tibor Kozma, and Adriaan Fokker.






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