Symphony No. 1 (The Tragic Symphony)

Opus: 171 Year: 1943 
Ensemble
Symphonic Orchestra: 2/pic,2,eh,2,2,-4,3,3,1-timp+2-str
DURATION
25:00 min
Symphony No. 1 - handwritten by Marc Lavry

Symphony No. 1 – handwritten by Marc Lavry

Recording: Not yet available

Publisher: The Marc Lavry Heritage Society

Synopsis:
The news from Europe about the Nazi atrocities against Jews was beginning to reach Israel. In his autobiography from 1946, Lavry wrote: “The events of recent years, the tragic fate that met my people and most likely didn’t skip my family either, had affected me to the point that I am conflicted… [On the one hand] I belong to the land [of Israel] and wish to sing it, [and on the other hand I find myself reacting to what transpires outside of its borders…] I cannot avoid thinking of the horrors we hear and read of. It pressures me like a nightmare seeking an outlet. In the summer of 1945 I completed composing a “tragic” symphony that is dedicated to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. The music burst out as a cry of the soul, it was an inevitable reaction. Only then, I was able to return to my usual path.”

Symphony No. 1 (The Tragic Symphony) includes four movements:

  • Allegro Moderato
  • Allegro Agitato
  • Largo
  • Allegro Affetto – Finale

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.