To discuss

Ballade about the Taciturn Musicians of Israel

Yokhanan Einav von Klavierspieler.

In his "Ballade about the Taciturn Musicians of Israel" the author relates to Israeli musicians’ curious silence about themselves and their work; he examines the inner mechanism of relationships among musicians in general, and the vital role of a dialogue between the musicologist and the performer. The musicologist’s understanding and appreciation of the cultural background of a given work and his ability to convey this to the performer is, he believes, crucial to a meaningful performance.

The author examines the history of relations between performers and musicologists from the XIXth century onwards. Based on what is known of composers like Liszt and Brahms and the way they taught their pupils, such composers seem to have acted also as musicologists.

The long history of relations between performers and musicologists extends throughout the Soviet era and was part of the music world in the USA and Western Europe, during the Thirties as well as after World War II. In the Soviet Union, however, performers virtually lost touch with contemporary musicologists, mainly because the musicologists themselves were kept isolated from the roots that fed the composers of the central European repertoire. The various social repercussions of collaborations between performers and musicologists in the West, in Western Europe, in the USA, in Canada and Australia during the Cold War are also examined.

The article goes on to discuss the situation in Israel, from the days of the Yishuv during the Thirties, and up to now. A group of leading composers came from Europe to Palestine and voluntarily underwent a process of cultural transformation with the aim of creating music for the new Israeli nation. The interaction between those composers, specifically Paul Ben Haim, Alexander Uria Boscovich and Oeden Partosh - who also served as "musicologists", and the young Israeli performers – among them Pnina Salzman, Varda Nishri, Yahli Vagman, Mira Zakkai, Uzi Wiesel, Arie Vardi - brought into being what was called the "Mediterranean school of music". Further political and societal developments in and around Israel are examined in the article, taking into account the massive influx of musicians from the former USSR, which largely eroded any cohesiveness within the country’s musical circles. The dialogue between the musicologist and the performer has been disrupted by the cultural distance between the few aging musicologists and the great majority of new performers with different orientation and aims. The country’s cultural establishment is found to be too hidebound and not sufficiently informed in matters of art, music and their place in society to properly guide the network. This causes an ever-increasing flow of the best Israeli musical talent to distant shores, and the consequent forfeiting of these musicians’ cultural affinity with their country. Another sad by-product is the depletion of civic weight of Israeli musicians within the general society. Also, given the cultural divisions between the musicians themselves, one can understand why they prefer to retain the dignity of their art by suffering in silence.

English summary Valerie Arnon