Shlonsky, Verdina

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SHLONSKY, VERDINA (1905–1990), Israeli composer and pianist, born in Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Her family immigrated to Palestine in the early 1920s. She studied piano at the Berlin Hochschule fuer Musik with Arthur *Schnabel and Egon Petri. In the late 1920s she moved to Paris, where she studied composition with Nadia Boulanger, Max Deutsch, and Edgar Varèse and changed her vocation from performance to composition. In 1934, Verdina returned to Palestine, where she remained until 1937. During these years she composed music for poems of Lea *Goldberg, Shin *Shalom, Raphael Eliaz, and her brother Abraham *Shlonsky, music for children and for the theater; symphonic, chamber, and piano music. She also began writing essays on musical topics for the Hebrew press. Verdina spent most of World War ii in Paris and London. Despite the material and mental hardships of staying in Europe at that period, she managed to compose a few pieces. In 1944, she returned for good to Palestine. She continued to compose songs until the end of the 1950s, when she began focusing solely on compositions for piano, chamber, and orchestral music. Among her major works are Images Palestiniènnes for voice and piano; Symphony no 1; Cinq Melodies sur le Poéme de Guillaume Apollinaire for voice and piano; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; String Quartet; Hodaya – Thanksgiving Cantata for Choir and Orchestra; Two Sonatas for Violin and Piano; Silhouettes for Voice and Percussion, and more. In her essays, published in the Israeli press, she portrayed musical life and the life of musicians in both Israel and Europe, and dealt with the lively ideological struggle between the supporters of avant-garde music and its opponents. These were also the topics of her prolific correspondence with leading musicians worldwide. Verdina, who was also a competent drawer, gave private piano lessons for her rather modest living, and taught during the late 1960s and early 1970s at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. Her awards include First Prize of the French Government Competition for Women Composers for her Poéme Hebraique for voice and piano (1931); Bartok Prize for a string quartet (1948); prizes from acum for a string quartet (1973), and for life's work in music (1984).

Both professionally and socially, Verdina did not receive the recognition she deserved. Her archive, including a great many articles, letters, and musical compositions, is located in the Music Department of the National Library, Jerusalem.


A. Tischler, A Descriptive Bibliography of Art Music by Israeli Composers (1988); Y. Wagman, "Verdina Shlonsky – In Memoriam," in: imi News 90/1, Tel Aviv: Israel Music Information Centre Press, 1990.

[J. Aouizerate-Levin (2nd ed.)]