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NYWC Spotlight: Joelle Wallach

We are excited to continue our collaboration with the New York Women Composers. This month, we spotlight composer Joelle Wallach.

Joelle Wallach

Composer Joelle Wallach. Photo: Christian Steiner.


Joelle Wallach composes music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo voices and choruses. Her String Quartet 1995 was the American Composers Alliance nominee for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in Music. The New York Philharmonic Ensembles premiered her octet, From the Forest of Chimneys, written to celebrate their 10th anniversary; and the New York Choral Society commissioned her secular oratorio, Toward a Time of Renewal, for 200 voices and orchestra to commemorate their 35th Anniversary Season in Carnegie Hall. Wallach’s ballet, Glancing Below, a 1999 Juilliard Dance Theater showcase production originally commissioned by the Carlisle Project, was premiered in Philadelphia during the summer of 1994, entered the repertory of the Hartford Ballet in February 1995, and received its New York City premiere that June. As early as 1980 her choral work, On the Beach at Night Alone, won first prize in the Inter-American Music Awards.

Wallach grew up in Morocco, but makes her home in New York City, where she was born. Her early training in piano, voice, theory, bassoon and violin included study at the Juilliard Preparatory Division, and she earned bachelors and masters degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University respectively. In 1984 the Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with John Corigliano, granted her its first doctorate in composition.

A pre-concert lecturer for the New York Philharmonic for several subscription series, Ms Wallach speaks on a broad range of musical subjects, bringing fresh insights to familiar works and opening doors to modern ones and to those less frequently heard.

Featured Work: Scalerica d’oro for cello, dumbek, finger cymbals, and castanets


  • Title: Scalerica d’oro”
  • Composer: Joelle Wallach
  • Year of Composition: 2012
  • Instrumentation: cello, dumbek, finger cymbals, and castanets
  • Movements: 5
  • Duration of Work: +/- 15 minutes
  • Number of Measures: 18, 63, 135, 144, 81
  • Number of pages: 20-page cello part plus pages for dumbek, title and notes
  • Tempo:
    • I. Meditative and freely with a little whine, quarter = ~54
    • II. Presto giocoso, eighth = 166
    • III. Maestoso, quarter = 54 with Più Vivo sections quarter = up to 144 and Meno mosso sections quarter = 76-80
    • IV. Cantabile, quarter = 60-66; Allegretto subito dotted quarter = 60; Adagio Cantabile, quarter = 60-66
    • V. Reflectively, quarter = 60; Vivo, quarter = 84-88; Vivo, quarter = 96
  • Difficulty Level: professional
  • Highest Position Reached: thumb
  • Techniques Employed:
    • I. con sordino; 4/4 time signature, bass clef; double stop (drone)
    • II. 6/8 time signature; slap pizzicato, pizzicato, sul ponticello (like whistling); double stops; “uvular” trills, trills; bass, tenor, and treble clefs
    • III. 2/4, 3/4 time signatures; bass, tenor, and treble clefs; optional uvular trill
    • IV. 3/4, 3/8 time signatures; bent vibrato (explained in the notes in the score); treble, tenor, and bass clef; glissandos, grace notes, sul ponticello; “uvular” trill, trill; harmonics
    • V. 7/4, 4/8, 4/4, 3/4 time signatures; yelps (explained in the notes in the score); double stops; col legno, sul ponticello, harmonics, and glissandos
  • Publisher: Self-published
  • Where to Purchase the Score: email the composer
  • Cost of Score*: $14.00

Performance Notes

Scalerica d’oro, for cello and Middle Eastern percussion, combines Middle Eastern percussion patterns, based on Arabic rhythmic modes with melodies and gestures of the Jewish Mediterranean. They interact and exuberantly engage to create an exhilarating vision of hope, joy and reconciliation.   The final rousing song quoted in the work refers to “Abram Avino,” Abraham, the father of both Arabs and Jews.

The words to “Abram Avinu” can be provided so that listeners may sing along if so moved.” – Joelle Wallach


Click here for a recording.

Program Notes

“Scalerica d’oro, for cello and Middle Eastern percussion, was commissioned in 2012 by the Shearith Israel League, for premiere by cellist Regina Mushaba at the historic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of the City of New York. Scalerica d’oro combines Middle Eastern percussion patterns, based on Arabic rhythmic modes with melodies and gestures of the Jewish Mediterranean. They interact and exuberantly engage to create an exhilarating vision of hope, joy and reconciliation. Unusual for new music, this work ends with optional rousing audience participation.” – Joelle Wallach

Joelle Wallach’s Other Work with a Prominent Cello Part


A Collaboration with the New York Women Composers (NYWC)

The NYWC series at the Cello Museum was created to showcase its members who have composed various pieces for cello, informing cellists seeking new music to add to their repertoire, and helping listeners find new favorites. Many thanks to the NYWC for this wonderful collaboration.

Read other installments in the series here.

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*Prices are accurate at the time of article publication, but the Cello Museum cannot take responsibility for subsequent price changes.