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Menachem Avidom

Michael Tauber the well-known German conductor settled in this country in '33, and then they had just a string corpus of twelve musicians. I wrote the Polyphonic Suite, and when I came to Jerusalem for the rehearsal, I met Wolpe. I was maybe the only one who wrote in a style that was absolutely out of bounds here in the country. It was a polyphonic, dodecaphonic and very advanced work. That was at the YMCA, and I remember when Wolpe came over to me. I don't remember if he congratulated me on the work, or if we just spoke about the work. He was an original. He talked very plain and frank words. I don't think that he ever meant to approach somebody with compliments or something like that in order to obtain something for himself. He was not the type. We met before he left, when he asked me to take over his three students [...]

I think [his music is] absolutely original. It suits the person I knew (although not so very well, we had just a few meetings). This music is very personal, his own. He did not rely very much on what he studied with Webern or the Viennese School whatsoever, or the German School. He was very apart from Hindemith. That was Jacobi's path, a pupil of Hindemith. His vocal music that he wrote for the kibbutzim I don't think was what he wanted to write, but what he had to write. And that's what reminds me of Eisler and of Kurt Weill a little bit, this sort of socialist [music]. [...]

He couldn't see any future for himself here. He was right, because after he left in the early and late 1940s that nationalistic current started. Everybody was trying to build something on his national soil that brought us back to the Mediterranean music. That wouldn't have been a place for him, not at all, because he was like a block. He had his views on music. Were he back today, he would be very successful in this country, because there was a certain tiredness of that national style. We wanted to be more universal, international. So if he was here from the 1960s on, he would have found his place. [...] He was much more far-sighted than we were.

Born in Russia (1908), Menachem Avidom studied at the Paris Conservatoire and emigrated to Palestine in 1925. He received numerous awards for his compositions, including the 1961 Israel State Prize for the opera Alexandra ha' Hashmonait. His professional activities include secretary general of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, chair of the Israel Composers' League, music critic, and, from 1955, director general of the Israeli performing rights society, ACUM. Interview: AC, Tel Aviv, 22 April 1985.


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