Alexander Uriah Boskovich
Life and career
Boskovich was born in Kolozsvár, Transylvania, Austria-Hungary (now Cluj-Napoca, Romania). The origin of his family and of his name was the town Boskovich in Moravia. In Cluj, Boskovich studied in a Jewish high school called "Culture" which accommodated both Neolog and Orthodox Jews. In 1920, Alexander joined the local Jewish organization "Hashomer" in which he was active for four years.
In 1937, Boskovich sent a piano version of his work "The Golden Chain" to the conductor Issay Dobrowen. This work, based on Jewish songs from the Carpathian Mountains, was originally written for piano and later on, in 1936, transcribed for orchestra. In 1938, Dobrowen suggested to the "Palestinian Orchestra" to embed this work in a concert under his baton. Boskovich was invited (from abroad) to the premiere of his composition "Jewish Folk Songs" which was performed by the newly founded Palestinian (Jewish) Orchestra. (Later on, that orchestra evolved into the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.) One consequence of that event was that Boskovich decided to stay in the country and settle in Tel Aviv. In the coming years, Boskovich often said that Dobrowen, "The Golden Chain", and the orchestra's invitation saved his life.
One of the cornerstones in the development of the art of music in Palestine during the Yishuv period was the performance of Boskovich's Semitic Suite by the Histadrut Orchestra under the baton of Frank Pelleg. Immediately after his arrival in Israel, Boskovich changed his writing style as is well manifested by his Semitic Suite---from the tonality of Europe into textures that imitated the Oud or the Arab Kanun.
Writing in the Land of Israel had a profound effect on Boskovich; effect of the varied country's landscapes, the colors of sand and sea, and the sounds of the local music that originated from the various Jewish ethnic groups, as well as from the non-Jewish ones. All of these influences inspired him to develop a personal style peculiar only to himself. Penetrating deep into the Hebrew language served him as one of the most inspiring sources. Unlike others, he did not use songs or dances of the various Jewish ethnicities for a direct source, but rather formed his new ideas based on them. That approach prompted him to compose his violin Concerto---his first major work since 1942 which won the Bronisław Huberman's first prize. Later on in 1944, it was performed by The violinist Lorand Ervin Fenyves, George Singer conducting. Despite its success, Boskovich lost interest in this Concerto and, in 1957, he re- wrote its middle section as a separate piece for violin and piano. During the same period (1943), he also wrote his Concerto for oboe and Orchestra which also shows a strong oriental influence.
In the 1940s and the early 1950s, Boskovich formulated and advocated the concept of Mediterranean Music. The Mediterranean Sea in his opinion represented a new authentic cradle that merged Zionism with the landscape and climate of the East.
Boskovich loved the Opera, he loved everything French, such as Ravel's music and French art, while he equally loved the Jewish melodies of Eastern Europe. But in Israel---he felt and preached---everything must start afresh---perhaps requiring the abandonment of all the old loves and passions.
Boskovich's two key Eretz Israel works, Concerto for Oboe and orchestra and the Semitic Suite, were strongly inspired by the music of Yardena Cohen. The Suite represents most everything that he had aspired to: fragmented improvisational Middle-Eastern motives and piano that sounds like string instruments or Middle-Eastern percussion. This piece served as a model for a whole generation of students. His work includes the Concerto for violin, the Cantata Bat Israel, and the Concerto da Camera.
Songs of Ascent (1960) was based on the Bible, for spiritual and language effects, and on the Kabbalah for depth and mythical tone. The primary theme of this work is of a Yemenite character. There are no European traditions nor Mediterranean style in it; the orchestration and rhythms are derived from the sounds of Hebrew words.
The Cantata Beth Israel (1960) is written on the basis of Hayim Nahman Bialik's song of the same title. The lyrics are primarily for a tenor soloist, while the chorus sings verses from the Song of Songs and from the Shabbat prayers. Bialik's text music is written in a modern style, almost Surrealistic, while music to the traditional text is written in an archaic style. This synthesis of styles successfully solved the conflict between the Ashkenazi intonation and accent of Bialik's lyrics and the Sephardic poetry of the emphatically biblical text.
Boskovich also composed the song Dudu to the words of Haim Hefer which was one of the greatest hits of the Israel War of Independence. This music, in essence, contradicts everything Boskovich had been preaching. It is flowing and is saturated with tragic memories of the Jewish Eastern-European history; its harmonics are almost romantic. With Dudu, it seemed as if Boskovich's Semitic tone at once disappeared, and nothing remained of his preaching voice.
Students and Private Life
Alexander Boskovich had many students: young composers of his own generation as well as older ones. Among his students were Rami Bar-Niv, Max Brod (Orchestration), Ezekiel Braun, Theodore Holdheim, Yoram Papourish, Isaac Sedai, Tzevi Snunit, Habib Touma, Yehuda Yannay and David Zahavi.
Alexander Boskovich was married to Miriam who was a musician in her own right; she taught piano at the music academy in Tel Aviv. After his death, in Tel Aviv, she cataloged their estate and contributed his manuscripts to the Archive of Israeli Music at the Tel Aviv University.
Boskovich was a heavy smoker; he used to say: "One who doesn't smoke is no composer."
His son David Boskovich is a painter.
- '1942 '- Huberman Award for the Violin Concerto
- '1946 '- Engel Award
- Cohen, Yehuda (1990). Songs of Israel: Israeli music and musicians. Am Oved (in Hebrew). p. 110.
- Hirshberg, Jehoash. "The Vision of the East and the Heritage of the West: Ideological Pressures in the Yishuv Period and their Offshoots in Israeli Art Music during the Recent Two Decades" (PDF).
- Cohen, Shem. pp. 110–111.
- Cohen, Shem. Am Oved (in Hebrew). p. 113.
- "Sounds of the Negev". Festival "Sounds in the Desert" in Theater and Entertainment.