Silhouette

(1951)

"Silhouette" (Galilee) is a song that stands alone among Bernstein's songs, and it incorporates a Lebanese folksong. Originally written for mezzo-soprano and piano, the song was later orchestrated by Sid Ramin.

Jack Gottlieb, from the Boosey and Hawkes Edition::

"Only a few 20th century singers have become linked, in the public mind, with composers of art songs: Peter Pears with Benjamin Britten, Pierre Bernac with Francis Poulenc, and Jennie Tourel with Leonard Bernstein. The two song cycles that begin this album, the Rilke songs and the song 'Silhouette' were either premiered by or dedicated to Tourel. The Jeremiah and Kaddish Symphonies were also given their first performances with Tourel as soloist. The Jenny-Lenny team (Bernstein at the piano) also were heard in memorable recitals, including songs of Poulenc, as well as with the New York Philharmonic and other orchestras (Bernstein as conductor) in works by Bach, Foss, Ravel, Berlioz and Mahler.

"Another birthday piece, this one for Jennie Tourel on her 41st. (The composer has written celebratory birthday songs or piano vignettes throughout his career.) In 1951, Tourel sang, under Bernstein's direction, with the Israel Philharmonice Orchestra. The song incorporates an old Lebanese folk song, the Arabic words of which are paraphrased in the preceding English phrases: 'The boys dance beneath the branches of an olive tree.'"

The piano-vocal arrangement of "Silhouette" was premiered at the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.) on February 13, 1955 by soprano Katherine Hanse, with Evelyn Swarthout at the piano. The work is dedicated to Jennie Tourel.

--Christie Finn A special thanks to Rebecca Flaherty for her help with this entry.

Silhouette
by Leonard Bernstein


A last little bird on a palm feather riding,
Black and clean in the afterglow.
A lone little girl in the olive grove hiding,
Crooning soft as the sun sinks low:
oo, oo, oo, oo. Hu! hu! 'rr'fáh! oo, oo!


An old little jeep through the mountains crawling,
Tough and tiny against the sun,
A young Arab shepherd upon his knees falling,
Allah, Allah, the day is done,
ee, ee, ee, ee: Hee! hee! 'rr'fáh! ah, ah!


The boys in the dark olive groves assemble,
Hand in hand in a dancing ring,
Their eyes to the sun and their lips atremble,
Drunk with love and the chant they wing:
Walad ela 'Una, walad ela 'Una,
Norkod taht el zetuna!
Walad ela 'Una, walad ela 'Una,
Norkod taht el zetuna!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah!
Ha! ha! 'rr-fáh!


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