Ahasver (The Wandering Jew), Symphonic Poem
Recording: Not available
Manuscripts: Located at the National Library of Israel Music Department, the Marc Lavry Archive, System Number(s) 990036490840205171, 990036490670205171
Lavry composed the symphonic poem Ahasver, The Wandering Jew, while he was the conductor of the Berlin City Symphony Orchestra. At that time Lavry began to address Jewish topics in his composition.
Lavry wrote his Symphony No. 1 three times.
In 1931 Lavry attempted to write his first symphony, Symphony No. 1, Op. 21. Even though he was already an accomplished composer, by the time he completed his work he felt it wasn’t compelling enough as his first symphony. He therefore turned it into two shorter compositions:
The second movement, Andante, became a new composition (with the same opus number) — Andante for Orchestra – Tefilah, Op. 21. Note: Tefilah is Hebrew for ‘prayer’.
The third movement, Allegro Maestoso, was turned into a symphonic poem, Ahasver (The Wandering Jew), Op. 23.
In 1938 he made his second attempt to write a symphony, Op. 65. The movements were: Allegro Molto, Trauermarsch (Trauerhora), Hora and Finale. He was not content with the result and kept the second movement only – Hora Evel – Trauerhora (Funeral March).
Note: The sheet music of the entire Symphony No. 1, Op. 65 is available at the National Library of Israel.
In 1943 he wrote Symphony No. 1 (The Tragic Symphony), Op. 171, which was inspired by the grave news from Europe about the Holocaust.
Musicologists agree that the latter, The Tragic Symphony, Op. 171, is the most mature of the three, and is considered one of the composer’s masterpieces.
Ahasver (The Wandering Jew) was performed in Berlin and Riga.
It is interesting to note that during his last years in Germany, 1929-1932, Lavry wrote several compositions influenced by his Jewish heritage:
- Jewish Folk Songs for String Quartet, Op. 14 (1929)
- Suite Juif (Jewish Suite) for String Orchestra or String Quartet, Op. 17 (1929)
- Andante for Orchestra – Tefilah (Prayer), Op. 21 (1931)
- Hassidic Dance for Orchestra, Op. 22 (1930)
- Ahasver (The Wandering Jew), Symphonic Poem, Op. 23 (1931)
Anecdote: Lavry’s gala performance of Ahasver in Riga, on May 15, 1934, he conducted the Riga Radio Symphony in the grand Riga Concert Hall. However, his second performance, in March of 1935, was at a Jewish theater because by then the Fascists rose to power and banned him, as they did all other Jews, from performing in any official venue. Three months later Lavry and his wife left Riga and on July 4 arrived in Israel.