Hemsi, Alberto

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HEMSI, ALBERTO (1897–1975), composer, ethnomusicologist, and music publisher. Born in Turgutlu (Cassaba), *Turkey, he attended l'Alliance Israélite Universelle (aiu) school and the local yeshivah. In 1907, he attended the Societé Musicale Israélite (smi) in Izmir, studying composition with Shemtov Shikayar and cantorial music with Isaac *Algazi. In 1913, he won a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music (Milan), where, from 1914 to 1915 and from 1917 to 1919, he studied piano with Guglielmo Andreoti, theory and composition with Renzo Bossi and Ettore Pozzoli, and musicology with Giusto Zampieri. In those intervening years, while serving in the Italian Army, he was wounded during a battle in northeastern Italy. In 1919, he returned to Izmir to teach piano and vocal music at the aiu and directed a youth orchestra at the smi. From 1920, he became intensely interested in the traditional secular and liturgical music of the Sephardim, which he began to collect in Turkey, and from 1923 more intensively in Rhodes, where his family settled after the great fire in Izmir. In 1927, he moved to *Alexandria, where he founded Édition Orientale de Musique, the first Egyptian music-publishing house, and published a booklet, La Musique Oriental en Egypte (1930). He also founded a conservatory to propagate his ideas about Middle-Eastern music, served as music director of the Grand Eliahu ha-Navi Synagogue (1927–57), established the Alexandria Philharmonic Orchestra (1928–40), and continued his fieldwork (publishing the first-five fascicles of his Coplas sefardies). In 1957, fearing Nasser's political policies, he left for Paris to teach at the Séminaire Israélite de France. From 1958 he simultaneously assumed the music directorships of the Berith Shalom and Isaac Abravanel Synagogues. He studied ethnomusicology under Claudie Marcel-Dubois (1961–65) and was also active in French radio. His musical manuscripts and unpublished works are deposited in the Music Department of the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. These works include Coplas sefardíes, 10 fascicles (Alexandria-Paris, 1932–1973); Cancionero sefardi published posthumously, edited by E. Seroussi et al. (Jerusalem, 1995), and Maḥzor sefardi, an edited collection of 200 liturgical melodies).


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[Israel J. Katz (2nd ed.)]