Ben-Haim (Frankenburger), Paul

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BEN-HAIM (Frankenburger), PAUL

BEN-HAIM (Frankenburger ), PAUL (1897–1984), Israeli composer, one of the leading founders of Israeli art music. Ben-Haim was born in Munich. His father, Heinrich, was a respected professor of law. In 1920 Ben-Haim graduated from the Munich Academy of Music as conductor, composer, and pianist, and then was assistant to Bruno *Walter at the Munich Opera. In 1924 he became Kapellmeister of the Augsburg Opera. While in Germany he composed about 80 lieder as well as chamber and orchestral works (e.g., Concerto Grosso, 1931) which were very well received. In 1929 he met the Jewish composer Heinrich Schalit (1886–1976), who encouraged him to write a series of Jewish-oriented choral works to biblical verses. In October 1933 he settled in Tel Aviv and changed his name to Ben-Haim. He dedicated himself to composition and to teaching at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and at the Music Teachers Training College in Tel Aviv. Some of Israel's best composers were his private composition students. As a highly prolific and inspired composer, Ben-Haim found the way to retain his cherished European heritage, with his admiration for J.S. Bach (as in his Metamorphosis on a BachChorale) and special liking for Debussy and Ravel (Sonatina) and with his commitment to the ideology of the vision of the East (his striking Sonata à tré for mandolin, guitar, and harpsichord). From 1939 until 1955 he collaborated with the unique Yemenite singer Bracha *Zephira as pianist and arranger of 35 of her traditional songs, most of which he quoted in his chamber and orchestral works. His music was well received and frequently performed worldwide by great conductors and soloists, among them Leonard *Bernstein, Yehudi *Menuhin, Jascha *Heifetz, and Menahem *Pressler. Ben-Haim's orchestral works include two symphonies (1940 and 1945); concertos for piano (1949), violin (1960), and cello (1962); the symphonic movements Sweet Psalmist of Israel (1953) which were awarded the Israel Prize in 1957; Liturgical Cantata (1950); the cantatas Vision of a Prophet (1959), Three Psalms (1952), and Kabbalat Shabbat (1967). Ben-Haim founded the genre of the Hebrew Lieder to poems by prominent poets such as *Bialik, Sh. *Shalom, Lea *Goldberg, and *Raḥel. He composed a String Quartet, a Clarinet Quintet, a Piano Trio (Variations on a Hebrew Tune), a Piano Sonata (1953) and several suites for piano, and a Solo Violin Sonata.

add. bibliography:

Grove online; mgg2; P. Gradenwitz, The Music of Israel (1996), 351–57; J. Hirshberg, Paul Ben-Haim, His Life and Works (1990).

[Peter Emanuel Gradenwitz /

Jehoash Hirshberg (2nd ed.)]