Sunday, September 17, 2023

Hearing David Froom’s Breath: A Jewish New Year Tribute

 On September 16, 2023, the 21st Century Consort of Washington, DC welcomed the Jewish New Year 5783 with the outstanding program “David Froom: echoes, resonance, and remembrance.” The Dresser suggests it was a subtle connection that nonetheless added a layer of spirituality to how this concert was constructed.


Certainly, Christopher Kendall, Artistic Director of the Consort, and celebrated pianist Eliza Garth, who performed two of the program’s DC premieres and was the wife of the late Froom, focused their attention on the careful selection and performances of their much admired and beloved composer’s compositions. The concert began brilliantly with Froom’s “Quintet in Three Movements” (1999). This composition has an ethereal sonority produced by the surprising showcasing of an oboe interacting with strings and piano. Nicholas Stovall, principal oboe of the National Symphony, elevated the magical qualities of this composition.


Staying with wind instruments, Froom’s Ribbons (2017), a solo flute piece, followed. Flautist Sarah Frisof ably threaded the work with her seductive trills.


Breath again was featured in Froom’s Saxophone Quartet (1999), a composition organized in three movements and played by soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. Whereas the first two compositions reached back to classical music influences, Saxophone Quartet opened with a soundscape that presented like a traffic jam with auto horns clamorously honking. The second movement quieted soberly but percolated to excitement in closing this work.


Next Ms. Garth premiered the “in memoriam” piano compositions—the slow minimalist Prayer (2023) by Robert Gibson and the intricate Resonant Echoes (2023) by Jeffrey Mumford.


By concluding the concert with Froom’s Amichai Songs (2006) based on the poetry of the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai and as sung by American baritone Thomas Meglioranza, the audience heard these words:


In a man’s life

the first temple is destroyed and the second temple is destroyed

and he must stay in his life,

not like the people that went into exile far away,

and not like God,

who simply rose to higher regions.

In a man’s life

he resurrects the dead in a dream

and in a second dream he buries them.


“In a man’s life” by Yehuda Amichai as translated by Leon Wieseltier


The concert ran just over one hour and was a living, breathing tribute to a composer who added immeasurably to the new classical music scene. In the program notes, Christopher Kendall referred to David Froom as a Mensch (a Yiddish word now included in English language dictionaries meaning a person of integrity and honor) and Eliza Garth wrote, “Creating music was his spiritual practice, the concert hall his temple” and his last name “Froom” in Yiddish means “devout.”