Three Songs of Immanuel Frances - (1991)
for high voice and piano
The complete Hebrew texts of these songs are not represented here. The Hebrew transliterations in English characters are set as the lyrics in the scores. The original Hebrew is available in Hebrew Verse, ed. and trans. by T. Carmi, Penguin Books, 1981. The following translations are the composer's.
i. Eit echezeh Chana ( )
When I see Hannah in brilliant light,
when I recall Naomi, splendidly perfect,
my soul is afire for Hannah
while my spirit is alight for Naomi.
So there I am, in a dilemma,
Hannah is my lady of this day,
but Naomi rules over me since yesterday.
Love, how do I flee from you?
Oh, as iron sharpens iron,
so has desire doubly sharpened desire.
For this I am worried.
Love, I implore with outstretched hands:
Either give me both hearts at the same time,
or else split my heart between the two!
ii. Einei Tz'viah ( )
The eyes of a girl are the heavens of love,
a robe of light and beauty which clothe her.
Even when hiding behind tear-filled clouds,
lovers, be not afraid to draw near.
Do not fear clouds or torrents,
because there is already a rainbow over them.
iii. Ei Socharim ( )
Where are the merchants who pursued me
to purchase my favors?
O horrid time!
These days, they avoid my company;
when I invite them, they do not respond.
How have my wares been so devalued?
How can I sell, when there is no client?
Once they would have paid richly for my attentions.
Now I would be lucky if they wanted me for no money.
Immanuel Frances was an Italian poet and rabbinical scholar; born in Mantua in 1618 and died at Leghorn sometime after 1703. He received his instruction from his elder brother Jacob and from Joseph Firmo of Ancona. In 1674 he was chosen by some Italian communities to represent them in a case against the heirs of R. Zachariah Porto. A responsum by him in this matter is found in She'elot u-Teshubot Mayim Rabbim. Both he and his brother Jacob were determined opponents of the followers of Shabbethai Zebi, against whom they argued in a volume of poems. Frances also opposed the cabalists, creating so strong a feeling among the cabalistic rabbis of Mantua that they destroyed his brother's published poems and forced him to flee the city. He wandered from place to place, as far as to Algiers, settling finally in Leghorn. In addition to many occasional poems, Frances' best-known work written in Algiers is a treatise on Hebrew prosody, in which he makes use of a number of his own verses.
The "old whore's lament" is set in contradistinction to the youthful passion for two women simultaneously. With the middle song calling for love to arise, these three make an arch of time, from youth to age and from youthful, stupid exuberance to ironic and bittersweet sadness in looking back at better days.
The score 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 piano-vocal score.
Three Songs of Immanuel Frances