Preludes and Debka for trombone and string quartet was composed in 2001 for Haim Avitsur and the Degas String Quartet, and was given its premiere by them in Syracuse and New York City. Writing for this unusual combination was a pleasurable challenge—that of working out ways for the trombone and strings to make real chamber music together. A “debka” is a Middle Eastern dance, used in both Arab and Israeli communities—the dance and its music is, as in the last section of this piece, normally in the form of a theme and variations. I found this melody in an anthology of Sephardic music when I was beginning the composition of the piece, and it jumped out as being a wonderful theme for the trombone and strings to play with.
The piece grows from a quiet mysterious opening, highlighting an echoing, moody statement, and then a related idea in sharper, repeated notes; this leads to a scherzo-like section where the melody is traded between the trombone and strings; then a slow, tender duet between the trombone and first violin, which after a trombone cadenza, leads to the variations on the debka melody–mostly lively and playful, eventually becoming rather wild as it brings back the opening material in a new character, and then ending with a reprise of the debka theme.