Dreydl is a one-movement orchestral piece. It emerged out of my preoccupation with memory and the passing of time, which was also why I used a small fragment of Mordechaj Gebirtig’s “Hulyet hulyet kinderlach” with the line “Wayl fun friling bis tsum Winter is a katzenshprung” in my first opera, Baalambs Feast, in 1994. Dreydl also stems from my more recent interest in restyling and reinventing dance-like rhythms or patterns that have nearly no development.
The title was inspired by the first line of the Yiddish children's song “Ikh bin a kleyner dreydl”. A dreydl is a spinning top that children still play with today during the Festival of Lights, Chanukah. As with dice, the dreydl is a game of chance. Incessantly it spins and spins and is therefore for me a symbol of life: “The wheels are turning, the years are passing / Alas without end and without goal / Bereft of luck, so I stayed...” says a passage in the song “Dem Milners Trem” (“The Miller’s Tears”) by Mark Markowytsch Warschawskyj. The continuous rhythmic patterns in Dreydl are used to underline the fatal circularity of destiny such as we have experienced during the two years of the pandemic—where time has been suspended and nobody knows what the future will bring.
(Olga Neuwirth, December 2021)