Compositions of Erik Contzius are performed at festivals, conferences and church services in Israel, Egypt, Germany, Austria, Sweden and the USA. Liturgical music constitutes the major part of his creative work. As cantor Contzius has composed numerous spiritual pieces. One of his works, “And Hannah Prayed”, was selected for the final of the third Shalshelet International Festival of New Jewish Liturgical Music in 2008.
As basis for this song of praise, written for a soprano with piano accompaniment, served an excerpt taken from The First Book of Samuel in which Hanna praises God.
The ternary composition opens with the prelude in the form of a short recitative of “Now Hannah was praying in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice could not be heard.” In this prelude, the composer uses a descending melody line and gradually diminishing dynamics (from p to ppp) to evoke an atmosphere of silent prayer.
The first section with its smooth flow of melody, calm and peaceful in character, is written in G-major. The measured movement of the piano triplets and a slow tempo add a tranquil, soothing tone to the music. Contzius combines a major tonic with a minor subdominant, thus introducing a more supplicate moment to the radiant music.
The second section opens with a change of tonality to G-minor. The rhythm pattern and the texture of the accompaniment remain the same, emphasising the unity of the two sections, but the melody assumes a more vigorous and agitated character starting with a descending sequence and very rapidly rising to the culmination.
The third section reverts to G-major. A calm and measured movement of triplets in the accompaniment pairs with the melody from the previous section, which acquires a new range and freedom due to the appearance of duplets combined with movements to wide intervals. The composition closes with the line “For not by strength shall man prevail” repeated twice, stressing the dominant idea of the composition.
Erik Contzius’s “And Hannah prayed” is a homogenous piece, easily comprehensible for the listener. At the same time the piece is of interest from a performer’s point of view inasmuch as the vocal part ranging from D4 to G5 allows the vocalist to show her mastery to convey the subtlest nuances creating the most vivid imagery.