Ben-Zion Orgad

Israeli composer, educator and poet

Ben-Zion Orgad (Gelsenkirchen, 1926 - Tel Aviv, 2006, immigrated in 1933), is a composer, educator, and poet. A 1997 Israel Prize laureate, Orgad has been most known as a principal figure on the music education scene for over three decades. He served as the national Superintendent of Music Education between 1975 and 1988. He studied with Rosowsky, Ben-Haim, and Tal in Jerusalem, and in the US with Copland. He is also known for the importance of the Hebrew language in his works – vocal as well as instrumental; he published a booklet about the musical potential of the Hebrew language. Orgad’s use of biblical and poetic Hebrew in his works is extensive and thorough, as in his large scale cantata Mizmorim (Psalms, 1966-8). In Mizmorim Orgad sets some of the most powerful Psalms texts to music that derives motives and melodic cells from cantilation juxtaposed in multi-layer textures, creating non-folkloristic contemporary, but not avant garde, sensations.

Among his major works are Hatzvi Israel [The Beauty of Israel] (symphony, 1949/1964), Balade (orchestra, 1971), Ashmoret shlishit [The Third Watch] (orchestra, 1978), Hallel (1978), Individuations II: Concertante (violin, cello and chamber orchestra, 1990), and Six Filigrees (chamber, 1989-1993; no. 6 for string orchestra). A transformation of first generation composers’ tendencies to depict Israeli (mostly pastoral) views in music, Orgad refers in some of his pieces to vistas in Israel, such as Hallel to Jerusalem, and Filigrees to the Galilee.

Further bibliography

Ben-Zion Orgad : the voice of vision

Dissertation concerning Orgad work: Concert settings of Psalms by first and second generation composers in the Land of Israel : contexts of composition, ideological factors and stylistics characteristics