Shlomo Yoffe

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Shlomo Yoffe [Joffe], born in Warsaw, 19 May 1909. In his youth he studied piano, theory and solfege in Samara, Russia (1918-21), and, in 1924 in Warsaw joined the Zionist movement Hashomer Hatza'ir, playing the mandoline, tuba, baritone and clarinet in its folk orchestras. He graduated from the Teachers' Seminarium in Poznan (Poland) in 1928, and in 1930, following agricultural studies in Brno (Czechoslovakia), moved to Palestine, helping to establish a kibbutz in 1932. Only after 1940 did he begin to be involved with music again, at first teaching and arranging music at the kibbutz Beit Alpha. After a period of concentrated study (1947-53), with Prof. J. Tal and Prof. O. Partos at the New Jerusalem Academy of Music, and privately with A.A. Boskovich, he devoted himself to composition and teaching at the district conservatory for kibbutzim at Beth-She'an Valley, where he was director until 1973. In the 1950s, under Boskovitch's influence, he used elements of Near Eastern Jewish song, maqam, heterophony and a form of chromatic modality, often in the expression of biblical and Israeli dramas, for example in the cantata "Tales of Mount Gilboa" (953), but also in his Prokofiev-like neo-classical symphonic works. These features remained evident in later works, despite the influence of Schoenbrg in the compositions of the 1960s and the influences that followed a visit to Darmstadt in 1962 and meetings with Lutoslawski and Penderecki. His cantata "Rising Night after Night" (1978), for example, exhibits many contemporary aspects, including extended vocal techniques, clusters and a deformed folk melody, but despite these developments, Joffe always remained, through his teaching, association and biblical roots, a 'kibbutz composer'. Shlomo Yoffe died in Beit-Alpha, 29 Dec 1995.