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Week 5


This week’s listening assignments explore how Arab and Middle Eastern musical traditions influenced the works of several Israeli composers of art music. Their compositions helped to shape an “Oriental sound,” which we will encounter frequently in the coming weeks, in the realms of both art and popular music.

1. Ben-Haim, Paul. Piano Music of Paul Ben-Haim, Centaur CRC 2506, 2001

J. Hirschberg writes in the CD booklet that “Much of Ben-Haim’s music in general and piano music in particular is marked by the cantillation [refer to the entry on “Jewish Music” in Grove for an explanation of the term] and pastoral mood of the Middle Easter peasant music, together with the rhythms of such dances like the Israeli ‘Hora’ and Yemenite traditional dances. […] Ben-Haim regards his work as part of that widespread contemporary effort to synthesize Eastern and Western traditions” (p. 3).

In your listening, follow the “Pastoral” thread as well as the quotation of an Israeli folk song: a celebration of agricultural life, yet the chance to integrate Jewish traditional themes with Middle Eastern modal textures and sounds, all in the context of art music.

Track 7: Andante, from Suite No. 1, Op. 20a (1933). Written shortly after the composer’s immigration to Palestine, this piece quotes a “Song of the Land of Israel” (SLI, or Israeli folk song) by Yemenite musician/dancer Sara Levi-Tanai.

Track 1: Allegretto grazioso, from Sonatina, Op. 38 (1946); a careful elaboration of Oriental themes,

both in the melodic and modal materials, and in the attempt to create, via the light touch of the piano, a

sound that emulates the Arab string instrument, qanun (which we listened to in our 1 assignments).



Track 9: Pastorale, from Suite No. 2, Op. 20b (1936); pastoral themes represent the new Zionist idea of the Jewish return to the land, which idolizes the life in the agricultural settlements.

Track 17: Pastorale, from Five Pieces, Op. 34 (1943); a later reworking of track 9.

In addition, please compare the biographical information about Paul Ben-Haim derived from the CD booklet with the interview by Fleisher with another Israeli pioneer composer of European origins, Joseph Tal (Fleisher, Ch. 2, available on bSpace).

2. Flute and Strings from Israel, Music in Israel MII-CD-20, 1996

The flute, the shepherd’s instrument par excellence, is celebrated here together with Oriental themes elaborated by some of the most influential Israeli composers. Feel free to explore Paul Ben-Haim’s Serenade at the beginning of this CD (a veritable explosion of 1950’s Orientalism!), but focus particularly on the two following selections:

Track 9: Fast and Lively, from Poem for Flute quartet (1965) by Ami Maayani. Maayani, a composer known internationally especially for his works for the harp, elaborates here on the Orientalist legacy of his teacher, P. Ben-Haim.

Track 11: Moderato; Andantino sostenuto, from Maqamat for Flute and string quartet (1959) by Oedoen Partos. Hungarian-born, in this composition Partos explores the canons of Arabic music (the title, Maqamat, refers directly to the modes of Arabic and Turkish music that we explored in class). The “mood” of this modernist composition is established in the introduction by flute solo. The intricacy of the modal structure is left to the textures of the string quartet (violins, viola and cello).

Note: All required sound files and CD booklets available on bSpace.