• Robert Saxton
  • Prayer before Sleep (1997)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by David Gryn as a memorial to Rabbi Hugo Gryn

  • pfvc
  • Soprano
  • 5 min

Programme Note

Prayer before Sleep was commissioned by David Gryn in memory of his father, Rabbi Hugo Gryn. Scored for soprano voice, cello and piano, it is a small-scale cantata in four linked movements. The cello begins alone and, as its melodic line grows, the piano enters, following a similar path of increasing activity. As the cello reaches the highest note of the movement, the voice enters, singing a poem (in English) which I wrote, incidentally, about a week before David Gryn asked me to compose the piece; the text is concerned with the soul’s freedom and the ascent to eternal life. This movement leads into a dance for cello and piano; this, in its turn, gives way to the final part, the only time when all three performers are combined. The soprano sings, in Hebrew, part of a Talmudic text entitled 'Prayer before Sleep' which contains the significant line: 'Give light to my eyes lest I sink into the sleep of death, for it is You who illuminate the pupil of the eye'. The cello joins the voice and they share a long melodic line while the piano plays a progression of bell-like chords which lead to the closing D major cadence in a spirit of hope and light.

Robert Saxton