Review from : Haaretz
With words and without them
A new album by composer Paul Ben-Haim contains 20 songs and one piece for the cello. The songs deserve to be called the foundation stones of the Hebrew artistic song. The CD supplies hours of enjoyment for its listeners thanks to its wonderful music and Varda Kotler's soft soprano voice.
Most songs have never been published as records and therefore the CD is of historical importance. The songs written in Munich are a continuation of the German lied cultural heritage. The song Vorfruhling captures the ear at once. The same goes to Hochsommernacht. For the German lieder, this is the first recording ever.
The songs written in Tel-Aviv reflect the soil upon which Paul Ben-Haim grew up and his integration into the new country: the texts by Bialik, Rachel, Yehuda Halevi, Song of Songs, partly reflect the author's thriving to synthesize Europe and the Orient. The song Akara (Barren) is one of the most impressive in lied literature. The great vocalizations are Paul Ben-Haim's attempts to reach out to the oriental world. The children's songs are for entertainment and tension relief.
PROFESSOR HIRSHBERG tells: Ben-Haim's diligence and routine remind of Hayden. He would get up as early as six in the morning, bathe in the sea – in both winter and summer – eat hot corn and come back home to compose. In the afternoon, he would teach. He was not a very verbal person. Whatever he had to say he did in his music.
In Germany, he worked as a conductor at the Augsburg Opera. In March 1933 after his concerto was performed the Nazi press attacked: "It is inappropriate to perform a Jewish conductor's music at the time of elation of the German people". In October of the same year, Ben-Haim immigrated to Israel.
His first years in Israel were hard and he had trouble making a living. Only in 1937, he resumed composing music. He lived in Tel-Aviv, but taught in the Jerusalem Academy of Music. There was a total disconnection between him and Tel-Aviv musicians. Prof. Hirshberg explains: "It was a small country and personalities with excessive artistic egos acted there".
His creative productivity was great. He was engaged in arranging songs of oriental folklore and also taught and trained growing students who became notable composers. He did not boycott Germany. After the Nazi regime was defeated he enjoyed plenty of invitations and honors from the Federal Republic of Germany. At the age of 75 he was invited to Munich for a festive concert in his honor. Walking in the garden where he grew up he was hit by a car and hospitalized seriously injured. He came back to Israel half invalid. In spite of all this, he kept creating.
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