August 5, 1995
Menachem Avidom was born on January 6, 1908 in Stanislav, Russia. He immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1925. A cousin of famed composer Gustav Mahler, he studied music and composition at the American University Beirut and the Paris Conservatoire. After completing his studies, Avidom taught music at the Tel-Aviv Teacher Training College and the Tel-Aviv Conservatory. He also worked as a music critic. His time studying in Beirut combined with a four-year stint in Egypt later led him to look beyond European modes on musical theory and composition.
Avidom began to work with “a-tonal” modes, and in 1939 wrote musical arrangements for Yemenite-Jewish singer Bracha Zefira. These arrangements sparked his interest in the fusion of Middle Eastern and European music theories, and in 1944 he began to write a series of pieces in the new style that defined the rest of his career as a composer. His compositions helped lay the groundwork for future Mizrahi and Sephardic (Middle Eastern Jewish) musicians in Israel. The pieces of this era included his 1944 “Flute Concerto”; 1945 Symphony No.1, “Amamit” (Folk Symphony); and 1951 Symphony number 3, “Yam ha’Tichonit” (Mediterranean Symphony).
In addition to the innovative work as a composer that continued throughout his career, Avidom served as the General Secretary of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1946-1952), Advisor on the Arts to the Ministry of Tourism (1952-1955), Chair of the Israeli Composers’ League (1958-1971), and General Director of ACUM, the Israeli Performing Arts Society (1955-1980). Avidom received the Israeli Prize for music in 1961.
In the photo, Menachem Avidom presents Albert Einstein a copy of his symphony number 2 “David” 1949. (National Library of Israel)