Israeli classical music has inevitably been founded on the traditions and cultural origins of those composers and performers who left Europe in mid-century to emigrate to the new country, and Israel's orchestras quickly established themselves as venues for international performers and conductors. Polish-born Joseph Tal (born 1910) has been the main Israeli composer to use 12-tone techniques and electronic music. Yohanan Boehm (born 1914 in Silesia) has used neo-classicism with shades of Mahler, especially in the Symphony No.1. There are touches of an eastern exoticism in the pleasant Concerto for English Horn and Orchestra (1956-1958), while the Oboe Concertino (1953) has an equally unassuming cheerfulness.
The early works of Israel's most celebrated composer, Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984), born Paul Frankenburger in Munich, were in a late-Romantic vein, exemplified by the oratorio Yoram (1931). But in 1933 he emigrated to Palestine, and following his meeting with the folk-song collector and singer Braha Zefira, developed in the 1940s an idiom that combined the European heritage with the influence of near-Eastern folk-musics, adding an exotic hue to an otherwise conventional idiom. His best-known work is probably the Symphony No.2 (1942-1945), Romantic in scale and conception, but shot through with colourful exoticisms, often created by the use of modal keys and the occasional exotic rhythmic percussive passage, as if Rimsky-Korsakov had been updated. Emotionally and intellectually undemanding, it is nonetheless attractive music. His Violin Concerto (1960) has also been a well-known work in Israel.
The merger of a European tradition with Near-Eastern colours has become known as the Eastern Mediterranean School, and was used by such composers as Alexander Boscovich (born in Transylvannia, died 1964), and Tzvi Avni (born 1927 in Germany); both these composers were influenced by the European avant-garde in the 1960s. A third composer of some prominence who started in the `Eastern Mediterranean' style was Noam Sheriff (born 1937). In the late 1950s he developed a personal, vital form of neo-classicism, and then a more advanced style, sometimes combining various stylistic elements, as in the orchestral `La Folia' Variations (1985). The symphony Mechayae Hametim (1987), synthesizing a wide range of musical sources, follows Jewish life from the diaspora to the holocaust and the post-War resurgence.
Israel Music Information Centre:
Israel Music Institute
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