Music > Rachel Galinne > Style and Musical Development

Style and Musical Development

Rachel Galinne

The first musical experience that Rachel Galinne recalls occurred when she was five. "I heard on the radio Mozart's Variations on the children's song 'Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman'. The work left such an impression on me and a strong desire to understand the connection between the various variations that I just had to write such a work myself…" When Rachel Galinne studied piano and could play Bach Inventions, Sonatas by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven and works by Schubert and Chopin, she began improvising musical pieces in Baroque, Classical and Romantic style and dreaming of composition studies. 

In the early 1970's Galinne began studying musicology at the Stockholm University in Sweden. The curriculum was influenced by a significant event in the Swedish musical scene that occurred a few years earlier, when composers György Sándor Ligeti and Witold Lutosławski were invited to teach composition at the Stockholm Music Academy. This event influenced an entire generation of Swedish composers, as well as composition studies and musical life in Sweden. It is not surprising, therefore, that as part of her musicology studies Rachel Galinne also took an analytical course on the works of Ligeti, who had such an influence on her. Galinne sealed her studies with a course on works by Gustav Mahler, thus studying the post-Romantic language which served as a bridge to contemporary music.


In 1975 Galinne immigrated to Israel and fulfilled her childhood dream by studying harmony, counterpoint and composition at the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University. There she completed her first and second degrees in composition with composer Leon Schidlowsky, harmony with composer and theoretician Yitzhak Sadai, counterpoint with composer and theoretician Joseph Dorfman and score reading with composer Mordecai Seter. In 1980 she took part in a composition course in France under Witold Lutosławski and in 1984 participated in a prestigious seminar of contemporary music in Darmstadt. "While studying composition with Schidlowsky", tells Galinne, "We had many conversations about the meaning of contemporary music, the Second Viennese School and the importance of Arnold Schoenberg and of literature and culture in general. Only then did I begin to understand the connection between theoretical studies and my personal life and feelings, and between these and the act of creating. I began my journey as an independent composer." And indeed, during her studies Galinne already wrote her first modernistic pieces that gained much success: Islossning – Breaking the Bonds of Ice, for two pianos and percussion (1984) and Cycles for Orchestra (1986).

Program for the concert "Women Composers - Past and Present", produced by Rachel Galinne, at the "Felicja Blumenthal Center for Music", Tel Aviv, 2013 (Call no. MUs 253 D)


However, at the end of the 80's, Galinne began searching for a new tonality; "A pan-tonal language", as she put it, "in which all existing styles will find their place in a new unity." In his article "Israeli by Choice – Rachel Galinne", music critic Nathan Mishori states that the prevailing phenomenon in the 1960's of contemporary composition studies while discarding the old compositional disciplines, "enabled many to refrain from that same 'unfair' competition with Mozart and his contemporaries… but Rachel decided that she must deepen her roots in the classical past and from there attempt to cultivate her own music".


Years earlier, while studying piano as a youth, Galinne read the book "Music Alive" by Danish composer Carl Nielson, which was published in Copenhagen already in 1925 and in Sweden two decades later, in 1946. According to Nielsen, one must understand music from the past in order to write good contemporary music, and he mentions the importance of the interval between two notes as an extremely important element in composition, as opposed to later contemporary music, in which the single note is perceived as the basic element. Years later, Galinne learned that the book was a stepping stone in the ideology of the first Swedish modern composers, who studied dodecaphony with the founder of modernism in Sweden, composer Hilding Rosenberg, in the 40's and 50's.


Having being influenced by classical disciplines no less than modernist ones, Galinne developed her own musical language, in which the idea of the importance of the musical interval played a very important part. She began writing in an eclectic style, which combined musical styles of various periods in one work, as well as combining tonality and atonality. "'Pure' modernist writing without tonal elements belongs to the past", she explained. In her method, "grey" writing in a single style does not supply enough room for dramatic contrasts, "between, for example, tranquility and transparency, on the one hand, and stormy and dissonant music, on the other".

Her search for contrasts wishes to depict in music "The drama of human life, which touches – on the one hand – war, death and human suffering, connected to the fact that both my parents were Holocaust survivors, and – on the other hand – hope, belief, happiness and peace". Indeed, some of her works manifest the progress from despair to hope through the transition from modern styles to pure tonality in a Classical or Baroque style. Examples of this can be found in her works And They Shall Study War No More (2003) and I Will Walk in the Land of the Living (2006). These two works are written for soprano and a small chamber ensemble to texts from The Book of Lamentations, Isaiah and Psalms, which depict the suffering of war, followed by peace and happiness. The war is manifested in stormy atonal music, after which appears music in Baroque style with coloratura in the vocal line that depicts peace as well as joy and ecstasy.
היצירה אתהלך בארצות החייםA performance of Rachel Galinne's work "I Will Walk in the Land of the Living": Eva Ben-Zvi, Soprano; Orit Orbach, Clarinet; Gilad Hildesheim, violin; Raz Kohn, Cello;  Allan Sternfield, Piano, The Felicja Blumental Music Center, Tel Aviv, 2007


In order to maintain compositional unity despite the stylistic variety, intended to combine classical structural elements and contemporary contours, Galinne created original theories, which she presents in two articles published in IMI News: "In Search for an Answer" in 1992 and "Striving for Universality" in 1996. In these articles Galinne attempts to prove that the mere dense polyphony in orchestral or choral works can create an impression of modernist texture, while those same materials, in three or four voices only, can create a more traditional impression. Thus, for example, the dense sixteen-part textures in her work And We Shall Sing My Songs of Praise for a-cappella choir (1993) create a modern texture, while the work Fugue for String Quartet (2003-4) features four-part writing in the fugue theme on the notes of the name B-A-C-H, which creates a connection with the past. Both in her First Symphony and her Second Symphony , as well as in the work And We Shall Sing My Songs of Praise, Galinne uses canonic writing, which enables gradual transitions from textures built on dissonant intervals to textures of a consonant nature. "In my later chamber works", says Galinne, "The movement between the styles is lighter and stems seemingly from itself, without the need for any theory". 


The influence of classical disciplines on Galinne's work is also expressed in the classical ensembles and titles of many of her works: Sonata no. 1 for violin and piano, Sonata of Light, Sonata no. 2 for violin and piano, A Voice Crieth in the Wilderness, Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, Fugue for String Quartet, Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, First Symphony, Second Symphony and more.  


Judaism was always an inseparable part of Rachel Galinne's identity as a composer, and most of her text settings originate from the Bible. The only modern secular texts she used were written by Else Lasker-Schüler (in the song cycle Schwarze Gesänge – Dark Songs) and by Nelly Sachs ("O die Schornsteine – Oh the Chimneys"), in Hebrew translation in her work Nation Shall Not Lift Up Sword Against Nation. Both poetesses were of Jewish-German origins and both fled the Nazis – Lasker-Schüler to Palestine and Nelly Sachs to Sweden.


Through her music Rachel Galinne identifies herself not only as an Israeli with a Swedish background, but also as a composer of a Jewish identity, who experiences the cultural and historic tradition of the Jewish people. Galinne says, "I receive the inspiration for my works from the great intellectual tradition of the Jews who contributed to European culture and history, such as Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg". Galinne's works often express an almost messianic belief in the coming of peace and justice for Israel and the world, "despite the tragic element in contemporary Jewish-Israeli history".
Rachel Galinne, 2003Rachel Galinne, 2003


In recent years we have witnessed additional elements in Rachel Galinne's musical language: one of them is "a continuous process of clarity and transparency", which stems from her affinity to religion, mysticism and Jewish faith, for example in I Will Walk in the Land of the Living for soprano and chamber ensemble (2006), based on verses from Psalms; Dybbuk for solo clarinet (2006), based on the renowned play that deals with Jewish folklore and mysticism; Nation Shall not Lift up Sword against Nation for 8 singers and large chamber ensemble (2008), whose three movements are based on a poem by Nelly Sachs, about the lament of mourners and verses from the Book of Isaiah; Sonata no. 1, Sonata of Light for violin and piano (2009), in which Galinne depicts the Divine Presence in three pure triad chords in C major and in the highest register of the piano, creating a sense of celestial and distant music, and others.

The second component that was added to Galinne's language is influenced by Jazz, which symbolizes to her dance and joy of life. Thus, in the finale of Trio energico (2005) and in Sonata no. 2, A Voice Crieth in the Wilderness for violin and piano (2010), which ends with a "Jazz a la Brubeck" movement with a theme by Dave Brubeck. The first movement, bearing the same title as the work as a whole, is inspired by the Negev mountains, where Galinne imagined thousands of years of biblical history and memories of the prophets.