ANHALT, ISTVÁN


ANHALT, ISTVÁN
ANHALT, ISTVÁN (1919– ), composer. Anhalt was born in Budapest where he studied with Zoltán Kodály at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in 1937–41. Conscripted into a forcedlabor unit of the Hungarian army in 1942, Anhalt escaped in 1944 and was hidden by Pater Janos Antal and Theresa de Kerpelz, whom he sponsored for recognition by Yad Vashem. At war's end Anhalt went to Paris where he studied conducting at the Conservatoire with Louis Fourestier; piano with Soulima Stravinsky; and composition with Nadia Boulanger. During this time he lived on a stipend from the Union des étudiants juifs de France and led the vocal quartet at a Paris synagogue. He immigrated to Canada as the only musician among 64 displaced intellectuals who were fellows of the Lady Davis Foundation (1949–52). Anhalt spent the rest of his career at McGill University's Faculty of Music (1949–71) and Queen's University's School of Music (1971–84). His students included composers Jack Surilnikoff and William Benjamin. Among Canadian composers, Anhalt was a leading figure in the postwar avant-garde. Seemingly self-taught in Arnold Schoenberg's 12-tone technique, he employed an idiosyncratic form of serialism that culminated in his Symphony. Anhalt conducted the premiere of this, his first large-scale instrumental piece, at a 1959 Montreal concert sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress to commemorate the 200th anniversary   of the first Jewish community in Canada. A turning point in his career, the Symphony helped secure Anhalt a tenured position at McGill and resulted in international exposure. Other works of this period are Seu Sheorim (1951) for chorus and organ to a traditional text, and Psalm XIX (1951) for baritone and piano, to a text by A.M. Klein, for Otto Steieren, cantor of Montreal's Temple Emanuel. Also a pioneer in electronic music, Anhalt spent his summers in the late 1950s and early 1960s at Canada's National Research Centre, the Columbia-Princeton Center, and Bell Labs. In 1964 he established Canada's first electronic music studio at McGill. These experiments resulted in Electronic Compositions 1–4 (1959–61) and such mixed-media works as Foci (1969). As in other post-1960 pieces, Anhalt himself wrote Foci's text, which contains kabbalistic references and requires extended vocal techniques. In his 1995 opera Traces (Tikkun), a single singer enacts many characters in Anhalt's libretto, which is influenced by the Kabbalah, the Exodus story, and the writings of Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, and Isaac Luria. The Tents of Abraham (A Mirage – Midrash), which Anhalt has characterized as "a dream of peace between Judaism and Islam," was awarded Canada's Juno Award for best classical composition in 2005. Anhalt was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Elliott and G.E Smith (eds.), István Anhalt: Pathways and Memory (2001). (Jay Rahn (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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