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Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi was inspired by the folk song Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet), often sung during the closing service of the Jewish Sabbath. The letters of “Chai,” which means “life” or “living” in Hebrew, symbolically stand for the number 18; hence, 18 variations. I have given the choice of variation order to the performer as a reflection of my deep sense of performance as a collaboration between performer and composer (and, for that matter, listener). It also reflects my effort to open the musical form. This results in 18! or 6,402,373,705,728,000 possible orderings! The particular order in which the variations are ordered in the grouping below has no bearing on an expected or desired order. One of my fascinations in this approach is the formal structure that each performer creates.
I composed these variations while in residence at Brahmshaus in Baden-Baden during the summer of 1995. It is dedicated to the Abel family. Their warm welcome will not be forgotten, nor Herr Abel’s efforts to establish and maintain this studio, where the spirit of Brahms is palpable.