The Jerusalem Windows
Color, Form and Light
Among the ladders of light
Transformations and Convergences
vii. Hallel - Jewels
for a Crown
[ Approximate duration - 49' 00" ]
Chagall was born in Vitebsk, Byelorussia to a poor Hassidic family.
The eldest of nine children, he studied first in a cheder or
Jewish religious school before moving to a secular Russian school,
where he began to display his artistic talent. With his mother's
support, and despite his father's disapproval, Chagall pursued his
interest in art, going to St. Petersburg in 1907 to study art with
Leon Bakst. Influenced by contemporary Russian painting, Chagall's
distinctive, child-like style, often centering on images from his
childhood, began to emerge. From 1910 to 1914, Chagall lived in
Paris, and there absorbed the works of the leading cubist,
surrealist, and fauvist painters. It was during this period that
Chagall painted some of his most famous paintings of the shtetl
or Jewish peasant village, and developed the features that became
recognizable trademarks of his art. Strong and often bright colors
portray the world with a dreamlike, non-realistic simplicity, and
the fusion of fantasy, religion, and nostalgia infuses his work with
a joyous quality. Animals, workmen, lovers, and musicians populate
his figures; the "fiddler on the roof" recurs frequently, often
hovering within another scene. Chagall's work of this period
displays the influence of contemporary French painting, but his
style remains independent of any one school of art. He exhibited
regularly in the "Salon des Independents."
In 1914, before the outbreak of World War I,
Chagall held a one-man show in Berlin, exhibiting work dominated by
Jewish images and personages. During the war, he resided in Russia,
and in 1917, endorsing the revolution, he was appointed Commissar
for Fine Arts in Vitebsk and then director of the newly established
Free Academy of Art. The Bolshevik authorities, however, frowned
upon Chagall's style of art as too modern, and in 1922, Chagall left
Russia, settling in France one year later. He lived there
permanently except for the years 1941 - 1948 when, fleeing France
during World War II, he resided in the United States. Chagall's
horror over the Nazi rise to power is expressed in works depicting
Jewish martyrs and Jewish refugees.
In addition to images of the Hassidic world,
Chagall's paintings are inspired by themes from the Bible. His
fascination with the Bible culminated in a series of over 100
etchings illustrating the Bible, many of which incorporate elements
from Jewish folklore and from religious life in Vitebsk. Chagall's
other illustrations include works by Gogol, La Fontaine, Peretz, and
his autobiographical Ma Vie (1931; My Life 1960) and
Chagall by Chagall (1979).
Chagall painted with a variety of media -- oils,
water colors, and gouaches. His work also expanded to other forms of
art, including ceramics, mosaics, and stained glass. Among his most
famous building decorations are the ceiling of the Opera House in
Paris, the two huge murals at the New York Metropolitan Opera, a
glass window at the United Nations, and decorations at the Vatican.
Israel, which Chagall first visited in 1931 for the opening of the
Tel Aviv Art Museum, is likewise endowed with some of Chagall's
work, most notably the twelve stained glass windows at Hadassah
Hospital and wall decorations at the Knesset. Chagall received many
prizes and much recognition for his work. He was also one of very
few artists to exhibit work at the Louvre in their lifetime.
Images of the Jerusalem windows in the synagogue
itself may be found at the Hadassah website,
http://www.hadassah.org.il. Click on the language of
choice and the look under the "About" tab and the "Art at Hadassah"
for the "Chagall Windows."
This is a seven movement symphony for organ, based on
visual elements in Marc Chagall's designs for the stained glass
windows in the Hadassah Synagogue in Jerusalem, and more
fundamentally based on the name, Chagall, itself.
Heeding a standard musical tradition I chose to use
this cipher to create the musical spelling of C-H-A-G-A-L-L, the B
natural in the German system called "H."
Therefore the theme after Chagall may be notated:
[ Click on the above graphic to hear the theme ]
Seeing Chagall’s stained glass for the restored
cathedral in Metz in 1959, architect Jacob Neufeld invited Chagall
to create a cycle of windows on the Twelve Tribes of Israel for the
synagogue of the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in
Jerusalem. Chagall worked with Charles Marq, master glassmaker and
director of the Jacques Simon workshops in Reims, France. In 1962,
after an exhibition of the windows in the courtyard of the Louvre in
Paris the year before, the windows were shipped to and installed in
the synagogue in the Jerusalem hospital.
windows, Marc Chagall imposed his art upon the medium of stained
glass in the cycle of windows on the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The
textual inspirations include Genesis 49:3-27, the naming and
blessing of Jacob’s sons, Deuteronomy 33:1, Moses’ blessings for the
tribes, and Exodus 28: 15-21, the description of Aaron’s
I had traveled to Jerusalem as a principal
guest artist of the Frankfurt Opera (under the direction of Maestro
Gary Bertini) for the Jerusalem Festival, and there saw these
spectacular windows for the first time.
Other composers have
been inspired by the cycle of stained glass windows, including
Israeli composer Jacob Ben-Gilboa in his twenty-four movement work
alternating choral and instrumental textures), Dutch composer Petr
Eben in his work for trumpet and organ of four movements titled with
the basic window color schemes, and English composer John McCabe in
an orchestral suite of twelve movements, each son/tribe receiving
individual treatment. It was the intent in this suite for organ to
isolate the ideas and processes incorporated by Chagall in designing
and manufacturing the windows, and metaphorize the views expressed
by Chagall himself regarding his craft and art.
main theme of the piece in a musical spelling of the artist’s name,
C-H-A-G-A-L-L, in which the older European system’s “H” is the
modern scale’s “B,” and the “L” becomes “D,” based on the tribute
composed by Maurice Duruflé for his teacher, Jehan Alain. Hebraic
tropes were used to make melodic the names for the sons/tribes for
each window. One of the Ashkenazic tropes was employed, because of
Chagall’s Russian birth and lengthy stay in France, both considered
to be within the Ashkenazic European Jewish experience. The use of
palindromes as structure convey the sense of viewing the windows
from both sides, illuminated from outside in daylight, and
illuminated from within at nighttime. The second movement’s opening
is the Ashkenazic cantillation for Genesis 49:1. Other textual
interpretations through trope include Genesis 49:3-22. Thus the
melodic materials are drawn from many European sources in
interpreting the biblical texts.
In his own words, Marc
Chagall offered up his “modest gift” as an artist to the synagogue,
to the world of art and to all people. I believe this statement is a
remarkable and honest one, as, at this time in his life, the
elements of youthful ego had long since passed in favor of an
attitude of service and obedience to art and spirit.
i. Color, Form and Light
This opening movement begins with the statement of
the "Chagall" theme, which naturally modulates from C to D, and
therefore is stated at the outset as such, the second statement in C
beginning counterpoint to a broader statement in the alto voice in
D. A virtuosic display follows amid restatements of the theme,
and then a long lined meditation to end the first movement.
"Color, Form and Line" - MP3 file. [ circa 7' 30" ]
ii. Among the ladders of light
The second movement begins with a solo
reed in imitation of the Torah cantillation for that biblical
portion of text which speaks about the twelve tribes of Israel, the
overall theme for Chagall's twelve windows. A lengthy development of
the Chagall theme then follows with Torah trope motives dotting the
After that opening gambit of biblical cantillation
and continued exposition of the theme, a development follows, the
theme's penchant for moving from tonal region to tonal region being
further developed. In the following few measures, the head motive of
the theme is stated on B flat, again in F, then G, D and E in quick
"Among the ladders of light" - MP3 file [ circa 12' 00" ]
iii. Modest Gifts
This movement takes its title from one of Chagall's
own comments on his talents as a painter and sculptor. That
self-effacing attitude stands in stark contrast to the posture of
many modern artists who proclaim themselves almost messianic in
their contribution to Western culture, but whose works do not
measure up to their rhetoric. The Chagall theme is stated in
inversion, and then in its original orientation used as a head
motive for the pedal solo over gently shifting chords.
"Modest Gifts" -- MP3 file [ 5.09 MB, 5' 25" ]
A fantasia with an improvisatory flair follows -- a
meditation on the brittle quality of the materials with which
stained glass windows are fabricated. Chagall worked long hours
alongside the artisans who brought his designs to life, and labored
to add loving detail to his designs with lead paint, on top of the
various colors of glass used. Torah cantillation for the names of
the twelve tribes of Israel are embedded within the fantasia's
"Glass" -- MP3 file [ circa 5' 25" ]
v. Transformations and Convergences
An extended passacaglia and fugue over the Chagall
theme follows the fantasia. The successive "strophes" become more
and more complex in terms of texture and content, building to a
final statement. The opening pedal line is played in the 4'
register, sounding two octaves higher than notated. Thus the first
variation's treble voices sweetly cross the theme in that register.
Unlike the other movements wherein the Chagall theme forces a
modulation, this passacaglia generally roots itself in the tonic,
returning for each successive variation.
"Transformations and Convergences" - MP3 file [ circa 9' 55" ]
vi. Eternity Regained
The penultimate movement is a quiet meditation on the
many changing colors and subtleties of Chagall's work in stained
glass, as they are meant in the setting of the synagogue to point
our thoughts towards the eternal. The simple B-D relationship is
drawn from the second movement's small accompaniment details, as the
lengthening harmonic foreground adds more tonal regions to the
entire gesture, before a long-lined adagio becomes apparent.
"Eternity Regained" - MP3 file [ circa 4' 50" ]
Also available in a separate single edition is the
vii. Hallel - Jewels for a Crown
The last movement is a toccata, additive in
its structure. Its title represents the brilliant grandeur of these
twelve windows, displayed in the cupola of the synagogue, three
windows on each of four sides, much like a crown for the building
itself, and referring also to the Jewish notion of the "crown" of a
good name, that goal of a well-lived life. Hallel is the word
for praise, as better known in the forms, Hallelujah or Alleluia.
The final gesture for the work, however, is not the bombast of the
toccata, but a withdrawal into the meditative quiet of the overall
theme of the work -- Chagall and his masterpiece meant to inspire
prayer and devotion towards God.
"Hallel.- Jewels for a Crown" MP3 file [ circa
5' 45" ]
"The Jerusalem Windows" - in one complete MP3 file - [ circa 49' 00"
This work was written in partial fulfillment of my
Doctor of Philosophy degree in Music at the University of
California, Los Angeles, in 1993, guided by Professors Thomas
Harmon, Henry Hopkins, Ian Krouse and Roger Bourland as chairman
shown below, and premiered by Timothy Howard, in partial fulfillment
of his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ at the University of
Southern California. For the premiere, he staged a multimedia event
at All Saints Church, Pasadena, projecting images of Chagall's
stained glass around the church itself during the recital. I am most
grateful to him for a fine first performance.
Thomas Harmon, Henry Hopkins, Ian Krouse, Roger
The complete score for The Jerusalem Windows
is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial
performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this
organ score. Please note this score is 64 pages in length.
The Jerusalem Windows