May 26, 2019

A Requiem for Rabin

Yitzhak Rabin, by Peter Max

Writing, producing and arranging music for the likes of TinaTurner, Aretha Franklin and Carly Simon is what Aaron Zigman is bestknown for. So what possessed the 34-year-old Angeleno to spend sixmonths pouring his heart and soul into a serious classical work? Hewanted to offer a deeply felt musical response to the 1995assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Zigman explained in a recent phoneconversation.

“When I was watching CNN, and they showed the lyric sheet of thesong, ‘Shir L’Shalom,’ that [Rabin’s] speechwriter pulled from hispocket, it was such a poignant image to me,” Zigman said. “Being asongwriter and musician, to see blood on a beautiful piece of musicwas such a shock and symbol. It really affected me.”

The 35-minute, five-movement orchestral work will have its worldpremière at a Jewish Federation-sponsored Chanukah celebrationat the Westside Pavilion. The gala is scheduled to follow the TikkunL.A. afternoon of volunteerism on Christmas Day, the second day ofChanukah. The work, entitled “Rabin,” will be performed by the LosAngeles Jewish Symphony under the direction of Noreen Green.

Zigman said that after having watched the news of Rabin’s death onTV, he awoke early the next morning with the notes of his openingmovement coursing through his head. He jotted down the music andplayed it for his good friend, artist Peter Max, who encouraged himto expand it into a major piece.

Zigman read everything he could about Rabin and transformed whathe learned into musical form. The resulting work combines a modernclassical sound with familiar Jewish melodies of prayer andcelebration. It is, by turns, sad, passionate, joyous and reflective,as Zigman evokes the feeling of loss occasioned by the assassination;the love and fulfillment of Rabin’s relationship with his wife, Lea;the martial strains of the many battles in which he participated, andthe perpetual conflict over the land of Israel.

Zigman recalled being particularly moved by the Israeli primeminister’s speech at the conference with Yasser Arafat and hisreluctant handshake with the Palestinian leader. “He reminded me ofmy father. There was something about him that was so warm, yet hewasn’t perceived as so warm. He was shy, yet he had such strength forhis people.”

Zigman said that he is far more used to being a “behind-the-scenessort of person,” and had no illusions of becoming a world-renownedcomposer with the unveiling of “Rabin.” Still, he is gratified thatpeople will have a chance to hear the work played.

A few months ago, he presented the CD to Lea Rabin. ThePhiladelphia Orchestra has shown some interest in the work, butZigman’s greatest satisfaction would be to have the IsraelPhilharmonic perform it.

“Rabin” will be performed by the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony atthe Westside Pavilion during a Chanukah celebration that begins at3:30 p.m. on Dec. 25, following Tikkun L.A. For more information,call (213) 761-8241.

Aaron Zigman