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When Israeli music is mentioned, one immediately imagines young pioneers romping around a campfire singing Hava Nagila and dancing a hora. Or perhaps a klezmer band playing variations on Eastern European music with a minor key Mediterranean intonation. In reality, there is a concert music tradition which is definitely Israeli in character and, unfortunately, largely unknown.
Israeli concert music can be divided into three broad categories: Those composers trained in Europe who, because of the conditions prevalent in Europe, emigrated to Israel in the second quarter of the 20th century; those composers born in Israel and trained by the first group and finally those IsraeliÐbornÐcomposers who have been trained by native born Israelis.
The most prominent of Israeli composers is Paul Frankenberger, born in Munich in 1907; trained at the Munich Academy of Arts, 1915 to 1920; assistant conductor in Walter and Knappersbusch, 1920 to 1924; then conductor at Augsburg from 1924 until 1931. He then abandoned conducting and devoted himself to teaching and composition. In 1933, he emigrated to Tel Aviv and changed his name to Paul Ben-Haim. Some of his works include the Concerto Grosso of 1931, Symphony No. 1 of 1940 and Symphony #2 of 1945. In 1953, he won the Israeli State Prize for the composition Sweet Psalmist of Israel scored for harp, harpsichord and orchestra. This has just been reissued on Sony Classic Royal Addition with Bernstein conducting. This is part of a set that includes Ernst Bloch's Avodah Kodesh (Sacred Service) with Robert Merrill and Lukas Fosss Song of Songs with Jennie Tourel. Ben-Haim's music can best be described and late romantic with an Oriental/Mediterrean overrtone. He embodies the general tendencies of this group of composers who were trained in the classic late romanctism of the late 19th, early 20th century. After escaping from the difficulties of European life, they turned to the life that they were embarking on and like VaughnWilliam, Bartok, Kodaly and Grainger, they began to incorporate the music and folkways of the country of which they became part of. Ben-Haim died in 1984