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Tal (Gruenthal), Josef

TAL (Gruenthal), JOSEF

TAL (Gruenthal ), JOSEF (1910– ), composer, pianist, and teacher. Born in Pinne (Pniewy), Poznania, where his father was rabbi of the community, Tal studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, with Tiessen, Hindemith and others. He settled in Palestine in 1934 and after a short stay in Kibbutz Gesher, he moved to Jerusalem, where he taught at the Palestine Conservatoire (founded 1933) and was among the founders of the Academy of Music there. He also performed frequently as piano soloist with the Palestine Orchestra (later the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) as well as playing there as substitute harp player. In 1950 he was appointed as the first lecturer on music at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1965 he was among the founders of the Department of Musicology at the Hebrew University, which was the first in the country.

Tal was the pioneer of electronic music in Israel, having won a unesco fellowship in this field. He set up a studio at the Hebrew University where in addition to composing he conducted an extensive research project on the notation of computer music. As one of the founders of Israeli art music (see *Music: In Modern Ereẓ Israel), Tal was consistent in maintaining his close association with the music of *Schoenberg and his school. He strongly opposed any external ideological pressures in the direction of the artificial concoction of a supposed "national style," maintaining his conviction that the very fact of his living and creating in Israel made him a genuine Israeli composer. An early manifestation of this attitude may be found in the second movement of his Piano Sonata (1952), which is based on an ostinato quote of a simple modal folk song by his friend Yehudah *Sharett, on which a set of atonal, chromatic variations is superposed. Tal kept abreast of all subsequent developments in western music, including serial techniques. His musical style has always been sincere, intense, extremely elaborate, and dominated by powerful individual expression, especially salient in his five symphonies. From 1970 Tal concentrated on the composition of operas, most of them, including Ashmedai and Das Experiment, commissioned by the Hamburg and Munich Opera Houses, whereas Yosef was commissioned by the Israel Opera. Tal used electronic sounds always in conjunction with instruments, such as in his concertos for piano and tape, or with voices, such as in his opera Massada and the choral work Death Came to the Wooden Horse Michael (poem by Nathan *Zach).

In 1970 Tal was awarded the Israel Prize. In 1981 he was honored with a certificate and honorary membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters as an individual who had made an outstanding contribution to music. He wrote an autobiography, Der Sohn des Rabbiners (1985), and Ad YosefZikhronot, Hirhurim, Sikumim ("Memories, Reflections, Summations"), with Ada Brodsky (1997)


Grove online; P.E. Gradenwitz, The Music of Israel (1949, 19962); J. Hirshberg, Music in the Jewish Community of Palestine 18801948 (1995); R. Fleisher, Twenty Israeli Composers (1997).

[Jehoash Hirshberg (2nd ed.)]

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