Engel, Joel

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ENGEL, JOEL (Yuli Dimitriyevich ; 1868–1927), composer and music editor, a pioneer of music in Ereẓ Israel. Born in Berdyansk, Russia, he studied at Kharkov and the Moscow Conservatory. He was music critic of the journal Russkiye Vedomosti for 20 years and in 1911 he published a collection of criticism, At the Opera. The turning point in Engel's work came in 1900, when he began to adapt Jewish folk songs and to organize concerts for their performance. His activity attracted young Jewish musicians and the Society for Jewish Folk Music was founded in 1908. In 1912 Engel took part with S. *An-Ski in an ethnographical expedition to South Russia, and collected many folk songs among the Jewish population. Engel found in the Ḥasidic wordless niggunim manifestations of an original Hebrew melos. He believed that folk songs sung for years by the Jewish people, even though containing alien elements, reflected the Jewish spirit. He applied this idea in his most important composition, the music to An-Ski's play The Dybbuk (published as a suite for orchestra, 1926). He also set Hebrew poems of *Bialik and *Tchernichowsky to music. In 1924 he settled in Tel Aviv and devoted himself to the creation of original Hebrew-Palestinian songs. His music for Peretz's works was performed at the Peretz Festival in the Ohel Theater in 1926. He also wrote children's songs. In 1916 in Moscow he published Fifty Children's Songs (in Yiddish). More songs appeared in the booklets Yaldei Sadeh (1923) and Shirei Yeladim, and in a posthumous collection Be-Keren Zavit (1927). The Tel Aviv municipality named a prize for Israel composers after Engel.


Sendrey, Music, index; A. Weisser, Modern Renaissance of Jewish Music (1954), 71–80; M. Ravina, Yo'el Engel, Ḥayyav vi-Yẓirato (1937), includes bibliography; idem, Yo'el Engelve-ha-Musikah ha-Yehudit (1947), includes list of compositions and books written by J. Engel.

[Simha Katz]