Joachim Stutschewsky (1891-1982)

 

"Father of Israeli-Jewish Music"


In his memoirs, Stutschewsky compares himself to a traveling Jewish musician – a klezmer who was never allowed to remain anywhere for long and was never able to find rest. In Vienna, he together with Rudolf Kolisch founded the famous Vienna String Quartet, which won international renown with its premieres of works by composers in the New Vienna School founded by Arnold Schoenberg. Stutschewsky unites the traditional Jewish idiom with a musical language that was often quite advanced. Elements of the folk music of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Yemenite Jews from a wide variety of different countries who had now made their homes in Israel found their way into his compositions. Jasha Nimtsov

Biography (click to view...)

Joachim (Iehoakhin) Stuchevsky was born in 1891 in the town of Romny, Poltava province in the south-west of the Russian Empire (now Ukraine), becoming a representative of the fourth generation of a family of klezmer musicians. Iehoakhin began studying violin at the age of 5, and at 11, after the family moved to Kherson in the mid-1890s, he began taking cello lessons from A. Kuznetsov. Like all family members, he played in his father's klezmer ensembles. In 1909 he began his studies at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany under Julius Klengel in 1912. After graduating with honors, he moved to Jena, where he joined the Jena quartet, played as chief cellist and began teaching himself. He performed as a soloist and member of chamber ensembles in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania. During the First World War, Stuchevsky lived in Switzerland. From 1918 to 1924 he stayed in Zurich, where he was active as soloist, chamber-music player, and cello teacher, and began to write his treatise on the art of cello playing which became recognized as one of the major modern manuals and has also been published as an official method in Russia. Recognized as a virtuoso cellist, both as a soloist and in chamber music, in the 1920s – 1930s. He was a member of the Vienna Duet and the Vienna Trio. In 1924, together with the violinist Rudolf Kulisch, he founded the "Vienna Rainbow Quartet", which became the first performers of works by the composers of the "New Vienna School" - A. Schoenberg, A. Berg and A. Webern.

A convinced Zionist, he was one of the founders and a regular contributor to the Vienna newspaper Die Stimme, and wrote reviews and articles on Jewish music in the Prague newspaper Die Selbstwer. Living in a cosmopolitan environment far from being Jewish, Stuchevsky remained an ardent supporter of the connection between art and folk music. Stuchevsky studied Jewish folklore, collected and published collections of Hasidic music. In Zurich, Stutschewsky began to promote lectures on and concerts of Jewish music, in cooperation with the movement begun by the Society for Jewish Folk Music. From 1924 to 1938 he stayed in Vienna and undertook concert tours dedicated to Jewish music in several countries. In 1928 he took part in the organization of the Association for the Development of Jewish Music in Vienna, which continued the OENM tradition of combining elements of folk music with genres and forms of European art.

In 1938, shortly before the German invasion of Austria, he manages to leave for Switzerland, and then to Palestine. In Eretz Yisrael, he immediately gets involved in active concert, pedagogical and musical educational work. He is appointed Inspector for Music Education at the National Committee (Wamianad Leummi). Soon he established himself as one of the most influential musical personalities in the country, continuing as a cello pedagogue, composer, lecturer, and writer. He gives concerts and lectures in cities, towns, kibbutzim. After Rozovsky remains in the United States in 1947, Stuchevsky turns out to be the last representative of the OENM tradition. His works combine elements of various Ashkenazi, Sephardic traditions, and the music of Yemeni Jews. Since the 1950s, Stuchevsky gradually ceases to be engaged in organizational and educational work and almost completely devotes himself to composition.

As a composer, he remained faithful to the traditions of late romantic music until the end of his life, he did not accept modernist innovations. For example, although the opening theme in Fantasia for Oboe consists of a series of twelve tones, it is not an aggravating dodecahedron, but a tonal one. His transcriptions and transcriptions of piano works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Weber, Mussorgsky (in particular, "Jewish Song"), Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Dvorak, Scriabin, Debussy are widely known, and are included in the repertoire of many cellists. Among his important works are the cantatas for soloists, narrator, choir and instrumental ensemble Songs of Bright Sorrow, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the War of Independence and their dead parents (the premiere in 1958 was conducted by Heinz Freudenthal). The Day under the Sun premiered in 1963 under the direction of Eitan Lustig. The 1960 symphonic poem "Safed" was presented by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Paul Klacki in 1961.

In total, Stuchevsky wrote about a hundred large and small pieces for various instrumental ensembles, orchestras and solos, about a hundred songs and song cycles, including children's ones, arrangements for the works of other composers and folk songs. Stochevsky's largest work is the 1964 five-part suite Israel. Two of his episodes, "Simchat Hag" and "Jerusalem", were played by the Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Israel's independence in 1973.

Stuchevsky was also known as a music writer and publicist. Joash Hirschberg writes: “After the formation of the state, such a concept as 'Israeli music' arose, meaning musical works written by composers living in Israel. Thus, a border was drawn between 'Jewish' and 'Israeli' music. Disputes over the status of have taken center stage in critical articles on musical themes, and cellist and composer Joachim Stuchevsky kicked off this debate by arguing that Israeli music lacks a holistic style rooted in folk art. As an example, he mentioned works created by composers who were part of the Russian national association “Mighty Handful.” In his opinion, these composers worked exactly as a group and “tried to introduce a single national tone into their music.” It is necessary, as Stuchevsky believed, “ so that our authors also contribute to the creation of a unified musical about style ". According to Hirschberg, the idea that Israeli composers should act as a "united front", as well as the perception of musical creativity as a public mission, put at the service of the national collective, underlay the views on Israeli music by Alexander Uriah Boskovich. This idea was most vividly expressed in his article “Problems of Original Musical Creativity in Israel”. The theoretical and methodological works of Stuchevsky, a cellist and teacher, were recognized. Stuchevsky wrote instructions on a new technique that he developed for playing the cello. In 1959, his book "Klezmer" was published at the Bialik Institute.

As one of the founders of the Israeli professional musical culture, he kept in touch with many Jewish musicians who lived in different countries, published their works, collected materials about them. Creative contacts and personal friendship linked Stuchevsky with E. Bloch, F. Busoni, I. Achron, P. Dessau, P. Casals, M. Rostropovich. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, the maestro received the following congratulations from Rostropovich: "Dear friend Knock, / You are still powerful!" ("Knock" - so affectionately called him friends). Stuchevsky was awarded three times the I. Engel Prize (1951, 1959 and 1965), the G. Pyatigorsky Prize (1963), the Sh.D. Steinberg Prize (1970), the AKUM Prize (Association of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers in Israel, 1973) and others.

Stuchevsky died in Tel Aviv in 1982. His archive is kept at the Tel Aviv Music Center. Felicia Blumenthal.

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