Israeli Music History

Music in modern-day Israel has a rich history reaching back to the years before the founding of the State.

Print this page Print this page

The chamber music tradition, which also began in the 1930s, includes a number of internationally acclaimed ensembles and choral groups, which have expanded in range and variety since the immigration of the 1990s. Leading groups include the Rehovot Camerata, the chamber orchestra of the IDF Education Corps and the Kashtaniot Camerata of Ramat Hasharon. Many cities and towns sponsor their own choirs, and several festivals are devoted to choral music including Jerusalem's Liturgica, vocal music in the churches of Abu Ghosh and the Zimriya festival.

Musical performances, from recitals to full symphony concerts presenting a wide range of classical works, are held in historic settings like the restored Roman theaters at Caesarea and Beit She'an, and in two major concert halls, the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem's International Convention Center. Smaller venues include the Jerusalem Theater complex, Tel Aviv's new Performing Arts Center, the Tel Aviv and Israel Museums, as well as cultural centers in towns and kibbutzim throughout the country. Israeli concertgoers are enthusiastic and demonstrative, attributes much appreciated by the renowned guest musicians and world-famous Israeli soloists--Pinchas Zuckerman, Shlomo Mintz, Daniel Barenboim, and Itzhak Perlman--who are part of the country's music scene every year.

Creating a Unique Israeli Sound

World-class music events which take place in Israel include the International Harp Contest and the Artur Rubinstein Piano Competition. Local festivals such as the Music Festival at Kibbutz Ein Gev, the Chamber Music Festival at Kibbutz Kfar Blum and the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat, draw appreciative audiences, while the Israel Festival, which features music, theater, and dance performed by groups from all over the world, turns Jerusalem into a cultural magnet for three weeks each spring.

The creation of specifically Israeli music has been evolving since professional composing began in the country in the mid-1940s. While Russian and French traditions, German romantic and post-romantic forces, and the lively evocations of later European composers all left their mark on local compositions, a new expression of modern Israel in the so-called "Mediterranean" style, integrating traditional Eastern melodies and the cantillation of ancient prayer, has gradually crystallized.

The first generation of Israeli composers, all European-born, made great efforts to write in a new musical idiom after immigrating to the country. Paul Ben-Haim utilized expanded tonalities to create a post-expressionistic style, welding old and new, East and West; Oedon Partos saw in the assimilation of authentic folklore an important compositional method; Alexander Uriah Boscovitch used popular forms of expression as a compositional building block; Yosef Tal founded electronic composition in Israel; and Mordechai Seter concentrated on integrating Yemenite melodies and rhythms into his works.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.