mezzo-soprano, flute, cello, & harp, or
mezzo-soprano & piano | 8 mins
settings of three poems of Hannah Szenes
Commissioned by the Austin, TX chapter of Hadassah
First version performed by Neil Blumofe and ensemble
September 2006, Congregation Agudas Achim, Austin
Hannah Senesh (1921–1944) lived a life cut short by war, and beamed constant optimism as a writer, activist, Zionist, and war hero. The three poems I've selected for "Take the Burden Upon You" are drawn from the fraught era of her emigration from Hungary to Palestine in 1939. Despite the tumult surrounding her, she draws from themes common to teenagers in all cultures – those of new beginnings, choices, and crossroads. And despite her newness to the Hebrew language, Senesh composed distilled and worldly phrases full of craft and clever rhyme. Considering her fate just a few years later, a pall of tragedy hangs over the poems, and their universal sentiments.