91-year-old first-time author discusses her survival and the specificity of women’s experiences during the Holocaust.
The Azrieli Foundation presents its biennial Azrieli Music Prizes (AMP) Gala Concert on October 22, 2020 at 8:00 PM ET featuring world premieres by the three 2020 AMP Laureates. The concert will be livestreamed by the world’s leading classical music channel, Medici TV, and on Azrieli Music Prizes’ Facebook page, free for all to enjoy.
As recommended by the governments of Ontario and Quebec to reduce the spread of COVID-19, all Azrieli Foundation staff will be working remotely until further notice.
Please rest assured that our operations will continue to ensure that our payments to you will continue as scheduled.
Many years ago the American composer Virgil Thomson was asked how to write American music. “First you be an American,” Thomson replied. “Then you write any kind of music you like.”
It was a good answer, although it avoided the questioner’s implication that certain qualities should be involved to make one kind of music different from another.
During much of the 19th century, an age of nationalism, those qualities were often rooted in folk traditions. The visiting Czech composer Dvorak advised his American colleagues to look to their country’s Black heritage for inspiration.
Musical styles became more internationalized during the 20th century and yet the question of stylistic identity persists. Witness a press conference I attended not long ago in Montreal, during which $200,000 prizes were awarded for the composition of Jewish music.
Every two years, beginning in 2014, the Azrieli Foundation has awarded the Azrieli Prize for Jewish music to a composer deemed by a jury (including Montreal conductor Boris Brott) to have written the best new major work of Jewish music.
The foundation also awards the Azrieli Commission to a composer who proposes a work addressing the question, “What is Jewish Music?”
It is not an easy question to answer. During the course of 86 densely argued, two-column pages, the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians points out that “Jewish music as a concept emerged among Jewish scholars and musicians only in the mid 19th century with the rise of modern national consciousness among European Jews, and since then all attempts to define it have faced many difficulties.”
The Azrieli Foundation obviously recognizes the challenge. As director and soprano Sharon Azrieli pointed out at the press conference, you don’t even have to be Jewish to compose this music. Indeed Kelly-Marie Murphy, winner of the 2018 commission, happens to be non-Jewish.
Murphy’s piece, “En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One),” can be found on a new Analekta CD album titled “Azrieli Music Prizes Vol. 2,” along with music by Avner Dorman and the late Toronto composer Srul Irving Glick. One review of the album found “atmospheric wisps reminiscent of Mahler’s First Symphony” in its opening pages.
Mahler was, of course, a Jewish composer, who converted to Catholicism for the sake of his Viennese career. Felix Mendelssohn notwithstanding, being a recognized Jewish composer scarcely represented a career advantage in the years before Leonard Bernstein came along.
But to return to the question — “What is Jewish Music?” — Aron Marko Rothmuller in his comprehensive survey, “The Music of the Jews,” confesses to an avoidance of reference to “a specifically Jewish music” but asserts that it is always moulded by the circumstances of Jewish life, acquiring such typical characteristics as the predominance of the minor mode and the frequency of rhythmic syncopation, the latter related to the structural peculiarities of the Hebrew language.
All this reminds me of the confession by U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart that he couldn’t define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. The same might be said of Jewish music — its poignancy, its lyricism, its melancholy, its gaiety together pointing toward an identifiable sound.
“It’s about the integration of the East and West,” suggests Yitzhak Yedid, Australian-based winner of the 2020 Azrieli Prize. “It’s in my DNA.”
“Yet it isn’t one sound,” counters Yotam Haber, American-based 2020 winner of the Azrieli Commission for new Jewish music. “I wrote a piece based on Sardinian folk music and integrated it into a work that deals with Jewish themes.”
Haber nevertheless acknowledges that “there is something impressive about a tradition of more than two thousand years and I love the idea of passing it on. For years I was dead set against being labelled a Jewish composer. Yet it is the experience of being Jewish that makes me one. At the same time, I can choose just to be a composer.”
That, to be sure, is the automatic choice of non-Jewish Montreal-based Keiko Devaux, winner of the first Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music. “As a composer I don’t think of borders,” she insists. “Canada is multicultural, it is a tapestry.”
In line with this way of thinking perhaps Jewish and non-Jewish composers might agree to adapt Virgil Thomson’s dictum: First you be a composer. Then you write any kind of music you like.
The annual Azrieli Music Prizes Performance Fund (AMP-PF) supports professional music ensembles in preparing and presenting public performances of Azrieli Music Prize-winning works.
The donation is the Azrieli family’s latest investment in higher education, the Jewish community and the next generation of leaders
The Azrieli Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) are pleased to announce the recipients of the Joint Canada-Israel Health Research Program’s 5th call for proposals. These world-class research teams will direct their focus towards new frontiers in metabolism.
The Azrieli Foundation proudly announces the three winners of their 2020 Azrieli Music Prizes: Keiko Devaux, Yotam Haber, and Yitzhak Yedid.
Book launch presents an evening of reflection, listening to the voices of survivors of the Nazi occupation of Hungary
October 23rd, 2019 – For immediate release
“I feel someone has to speak for those who are dead. I think someone needs to remind those who try to forget. This is demanded by the cries of the dead echoing from their graves.” – Author Peter Vas
Commemorating seventy-five years since Nazi Germany occupied Hungary, Confronting Devastation, an anthology of Canadian survivors’ memoirs, examines the diverse experiences and memories of the Holocaust in Hungary.
From the worsening exclusions that marked Jewish daily life before 1944 to forced labour battalions, ghettos and camps, and persecution and hiding in Budapest, the authors reflect on lives that were shattered, on the sorrows that came with liberation and, ultimately, on how they managed to persevere.
Editor Ferenc Laczó frames excerpts from twenty-two memoirs in historical and political contexts, analyzing the events that led to the horrific “last chapter” of the Holocaust — the genocide of approximately 550,000 Jews in Hungary between 1944 and 1945.
As antisemitism and intolerance of minorities increases worldwide, the Azrieli Foundation continues its commitment to publish Holocaust survivors’ memoirs in English and in French, distribute books free of charge to educational institutions and have authors speak about their experiences to students across Canada.
Naomi Azrieli, Chair and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation, says hearing survivors’ stories is an integral part of understanding the Holocaust. “It is the personal stories that brings history to life, allowing readers to grasp the enormity of what happened – one story at a time. The Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program encourages readers to engage thoughtfully and critically with the complexities of the Holocaust and to create meaningful connections with the lives of survivors.”
Monday, October 28th, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. West, Toronto
Open to the public but pre-registration is required; call 416-322-5928
ABOUT THE AZRIELI FOUNDATION
For 30 years, the Azrieli Foundation has funded institutions as well as operated programs in Canada and in Israel. It invests in eight priority areas, with the common thread of education running throughout its funding. The Foundation supports Holocaust education, scientific and medical research, higher education, youth empowerment and school perseverance, music and the arts, architecture and quality of life initiatives for people with developmental disabilities. www.azrielifoundation.org
For more information please contact Abby Robins at 416-322-5928 or email@example.com
Every human being deserves a life of dignity. Everyone has capacity. It’s up to us as a society to help people actualize that capacity.