As it is the second night of Hanukkah (Happy Hanukkah/Holidays to all!) and I have a bit of time I am posting a few discs by Jewish and Jewish/Israeli composers, however just one now-until I return home tonight. Here we have Israeli composer (originally from Canada) Aharon Harlap's powerful and exciting Symphony No. 2, "The Bird of War", which relates to the Gulf War of 1991 and was directly inspired by Dutch artist Hans Hogendoorn's painting, "The Bird of War". It is a moving and beautiful work (I especially enjoy the third movement, an almost Prokofievian or Satirical Shostakovich-like Allegro that features piano accompaniment of a dancing energic nature) that includes in the finale a part for soprano performing passages from Genesis and Isaiah.
The Viola Concerto by Oded Zahavi is also a powerful work, not unlike his Violin Concerto, which I posted a while back. You can enjoy it here, if you haven't already:
Aharon Harlap (born 1941) is one of Israel's most prominent and well known (within Israel) composers and conductors. He was born in Canada, where he began his musical career as a pianist. He completed his studies in Music and Mathematics at the University of Manitoba in 1963, and in 1964 immigrated to Israel.
He studied composition under P. Racine Fricker at London's Royal College of Music and with Oedoen Partos at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. Harlap also studied conducting with Sir Adrian Boult in London, Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and Gary Bertini in Israel. Harlap is a senior lecturer in choral and orchestral conducting at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and he is also Music Director and conductor of the Kefar Sava Chamber Choir (since 1997).
Aharon Harlap has composed music in most genres, including vocal and choral works, chamber, music, many concertos (including a Viola Concerto dedicated to the international violist Rivka Golani, who is the soloist on this disc for the Zehavi Concerto), orchestral music (including two Symphonies - that is, I am only aware of two, there could very well be more) and Opera. In Israel he has appeared as guest conductor with most of the major orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonette Beer Sheva, the Kibbutzim Chamber Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.
In 1979 Harlap was awarded a prize for his oratorio "The Fire and the Mountains" in an international competition on the subject of the "Holocaust and Rebirth". In 1983 he was the recipient of the ACUM prize for "Three songs for mezzo-soprano and symphony orchestra" set to poems by Leah Goldberg and Yehuda Amichai. In 1993 he won the Mark Lavry Prize for Composition, awarded by the Haifa Municipality for his choral-orchestral work "For dust you art, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis III).
In 1997 Harlap's opera "Thérèse Raquin" (based on the Emile Zola novel of the same name with libretto by Dana Gur) won a prize sponsored by the New Israel Opera, and in the same year he also received the ACUM Prize for his Clarinet Concerto. In 1999 he received the Prime Minister's Award for composition, and in 2004 the ACUM Prize again, this time for his Bassoon Concerto.
The opera Thérèse Raquin was performed in May of 2005 at the annual Israel Festival, and received public and critical acclaim.
2002 saw the world premiere of "The Divine Image" by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, at that time music director and principal conductor of the orchestra. The work is written for soprano, mezzo soprano and baritone soloists, choir and symphony orchestra, and based on texts from William Blake, Psalms and Isaiah. Other Harlap works performed by Kenneth Kiesler and the Illinois Symphony Orchestra include the overture "Anniversary" and an orchestral suite based on Hanukah songs entitled "Music for the Festival of Lights". These works have also been performed throughout the years with other orchestras in the USA as well as in Israel.
In 2001 Harlap was invited to Hungary to conduct the Dohnanyi Symphony Orchestra in Budapest. Among other works, the program included Harlap's Clarinet Concerto and "Pictures from the Private Collection of God", a song cycle for soprano solo, oboe and strings, composed to texts by Yaakov Barzilai, a Holocaust survivor originally from Hungary. The work met with great success, following which Harlap was again invited in 2003 and 2004 to conduct the Solti Chamber Orchestra, which again performed the same song cycle as well as another Harlap work based on texts from Psalms – a song cycle for soprano solo, clarinet and strings. Recently Hungary’s MAV orchestra performed another song cycle by Harlap, "My father will no longer bless the bread" also set to poems by Yaakov Barzilai and conducted by the Israeli conductor Yaron Gottfried.
Aharon Harlap received the "Life Achievement Award" in 2008 from ACUM (Composers and Authors Organization of Israel) for his life's contribution to music in Israel as a composer.
Hans Hogendoorn's "The Bird of War" can be view on this page: