Forefather of Israeli music, Marc Lavry (1903-1967) was a most prolific composer whose legacy consists of over 400 musical works. Lavry wrote a wide variety of compositions from grand operas and symphonies to chamber music and popular songs.
While Lavry started writing in Europe, his better known work is all from after he immigrated to Israel in 1935.
Some of his better known compositions include:
Emek, Symphonic Poem, Op. 45: Marc Lavry’s 1937 Symphonic Poem Emek is based on his song “Emek” composed to the lyrics of Rafael Eliaz two years earlier. Lavry was inspired by the pioneer workers in the Jezreel Valley (Emek Israel) struggling daily to drain the swamps. At night they celebrated with song, dance and romance. The poem follows one such typical day.
Zemer (Tune), Song, Op. 225 no. 1: AKA “Night over Mount Gilboa” and by it’s first line “Lo Orchat Gmalim” (in Hebrew: “לא אורחת גמלים”) – Like many of Marc Lavry’s popular songs, this 1950 song, composed to lyrics by Avraham Shlonsky, has reached the status of Israeli folks song.
Three Jewish Dances for Violin and Piano, Op. 192: In 1945, a decade after immigrating to Israel, Lavry wrote a compilation of Jewish dances &mdah; Sher, Yemenite Wedding Dance, and Hora. There are also versions for Piano Solo (Op. 190) and Violin and Orchestra (Op. 192a).
Al Naharot Bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon) for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 33: A lament on devastated hopes, a song of repentance and regrets, that Marc Lavry wrote in 1935. The main theme is based on a Sephardic melody Lavry became familiar with, whose text is from Psalms CXXXVII that describes the crying and the longing of the Diaspora Jews for Zion. There is also a version for Symphonic Orchestra.
Woodwind Quintet, Suite for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon and Horn: 6 short movements that demonstrate the composer’s masterful orchestration ability for each individual instrument and his talent for melding them into a beautiful ensemble. The movements, written in 1957, include Overture, Waltz, Children’s Song, March, Meriva (Quarrel), and Hora.
Shechora Ani (I am Black) for Soprano and Piano (From Song of Songs), Op. 137: Composed in 1940, this art song is an Aria from the Oratorio Song of Songs, Op. 137.
Hora, Song, Op. 206 No. 3: (1950)The song’s lyrics consist of two words only – “Hora Nirkoda” (Hebrew: “הורה נרקודה”) – which literally means “let’s dance the Hora”. Listening to the song one can clearly feel the Hora dance in the rhythm of the composition.
The song, which became very popular as soon as it debuted, was choreographed into a folk dance and is still frequently danced in Israel in celebrations such as weddings and folk dance events.
A few composition that really should be played:
Dan Hashomer (Dan the Guard), Opera, Op. 158: This is an incredibly important opera, that in the author’s humble opinion is simply a crime that it hasn’t been performed professionally in over 50 years. Not only was it the first Israeli opera and the first one to be written and performed in Hebrew, but its subject matter continues to be relevant to date.
The opera was written between the years 1940-1943 as a collaboration between composer Marc Lavry, poet Shin Shalom, and writer Max Brod. It depicts the reality faced by Jewish pioneers in 1940’s Israel, during World War II.
Sacred Service, Oratorio, Op. 254: Commissioned by Cantor Reuben Rinder of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco in 1954, the oratorio is set to the synagogue’s Sabbath services.
The composition consists of two parts: the Friday evening (Sabbath Eve) and Saturday morning services, each one compiled of a number of prayers.
Pictures from Jerusalem, Suite for Orchestra, Op. 293: (1960)In six short movements Pictures from Jerusalem describes highlights of the holy city, also the capital of Israel. The composition, written in 1960, both opens and closes with movements about Mount Scopus, a vantage point from which the entire city of Jerusalem can be viewed. The movements include From the Top of Mount Scopus, David’s Tower, An Oriental Suburb, The Wailing Wall, The Market, and From the Top of Mount Scopus.
Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Op. 344: Written in 1965, this is a virtuoso, dazzling and sophisticated concerto. It includes three beautiful movements.
Boa Dodi (Come, My Beloved), Song, Op. 222: (1949) A beautiful song, written in 1949 to lyrics by Rafael Eliaz. It’s written in a curious meter: a 9/8 measure divided into three quarter notes and three eighth notes. This rhythm has become a typical Lavry rhythm in his lyrical works.
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 247: The 1953 Concerto demonstrates Marc Lavry’s unique understanding of the characteristics of the Viola and features musical themes that were synonymous with his work. It includes three movements — Allegro, Andante, and Allegro Moderato.
Symphony No. 1 (The Tragic Symphony), Op. 171: A heartfelt composition Lavry wrote in 1943 as he learned of the Nazi atrocities. He dedicated the symphony to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Song of Songs, Oratorio, Op. 137: One of Lavry’s major compositions, the oratorio was composed in 1940 together with lyricist Max Brod and the collaboration of Helena Lavry, the composer’s wife. It is a lyrical drama of four scenes — In the Village, The Abduction, In Kings Solomon’s Palace, and Ballad of Shulamith. The oratorio, written for soloists, choir and orchestra, is considered one of the most influential choral works and a milestone in Israeli Music.
Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, Op. 334: A beautiful concerto written in 1963, that explores various unconventional harp textures.