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Joseph Achron

Violinist and Composer Joseph Achron Born in 1886


Russian-Empire born Joseph Achron was born on this day on May 1/13 1886.

Born in Lozdzieje, a small village in present-day Lithuania, Achron's musical genius became evident early on and at the age of five he began violin lessons with his father, an amateur violinist and ba’al tefillah (prayer leader). Achron continued his formal musical education at the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied with Leopold Auer and composer Anatoly Lyadov.

In 1908, Achron founded the Society for Jewish Folk Music with Solomon Rosowsky, Mikhail Gnessin, Alexander Krein, and Moses Michail Milner. Achron's association with these artists inspired a change in his compositional style, the shift is best noted by one of his earliest and most famous works, A Hebrew Melody (1911).

In 1913 he took a position as the head of the violin and chamber music at the Kharkov Conservatory. His tenure was interrupted by his draft into the Russian Army in 1916. In the years after World War I, Achron toured extensively as a concert violinist throughout Europe and the Near East.

In 1925 he emigrated to New York, where he taught violin at the Westchester Conservatory, while also performing and beginning to compose for the Yiddish Theater. In 1932 he was commissioned to compose Evening Service for the Shabbat by Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, which gained him some recognition in the United States.

In 1934, Achron moved to Hollywood to compose music for film, while continuing to produce art music compositions and perform. He composed more than 80 works in his lifetime, the most noted of which are his violin sonatas and concertos, the Golem Suite (1932) and his incidental music to plays by Shalom Aleichem, Sholem Asch, and Abraham Goldfaden.

In the United States, Achron struggled to build a national reputation as a composer. Arnold Schoenberg once stated that Achron was “one of the most underrated modern composers.”

At his death in 1943, Achron left an array of chamber works that eventually found a home at the National Library of Israel. The NLI have teamed up with the Hebrew University Jewish Music Research Center, recovering Achron’s trove of forgotten compositions.



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