Music > News > Tzvi Avni: On the 85th Anniversary of his Birth

Tzvi Avni: On the 85th Anniversary of his Birth

 From the treasures of the Music Department Archives

Tzvi Avni is among the most influential composers of the second generation of music arts in Israel and a laureate of the Israel Prize. Born in Germany in 1927, Avni came to Israel with his parents in 1935. From an early age, he taught himself to play the harmonica, mandolin and recorder, and even began writing music. At the age of 16 he began studying piano and subsequently, while serving in the army, studied composition at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. His teachers included Paul Ben-Haim, Abel Ehrlich and Mordechai Seter. He went on to pursue further study in composition and electronic music in the United States. 

Avni has chaired the department of theory and composition at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem, where he founded and headed the Electronic Music Studio. Avni has also held several positions in the Israeli music and art world: director of Israel's central music library, chair of the Israeli Composers' League, chairman of the board of Youth and Music Israel and editor of the organization's magazine, Gitit. 


Avni's early works were influenced by the Mediterranean style that dominated Israeli music of the forties and fifties, in which alongside the traditional forms of Western music were ancient (modal) musical traditions and both eastern and western Jewish traditions. From the 1960s onward, Avni was influenced by the European and American spirit of modernism and his works became more abstract and innovative, using the electronic medium. At the same time, he composed songs and arrangements for popular songs. He even participated in the 1961 song festival, where his song "When I dance", with lyrics by Pnina Avni, won first place. In recent years Avni's style has evidenced a return to tonality and to Jewish folklore. Many of his works are related to the plastic arts, particularly painting. 


Avni's oeuvre includes orchestral works, chamber pieces for various ensembles, vocal and choral music, electronic music, and compositions for ballet, theater, film, radio, and more. Many of them have been published, and released on record or CD, and are performed frequently all over the world.


Tzvi Avni is the recipient of multiple awards, among them the Israel Prize for Music (2001), the Culture Prize of the Saarland (1998), the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for lifetime achievement (1998), the ACUM Prize for lifetime achievement (1986), the Lieberson Prize, the Engel Prize, the Küstermeier Prize and others.


The Tzvi Avni Archive (MUS 114) was donated to the National Library's Music Department in 2003. The archive includes manuscripts, sketches of works, concert programs, posters, letters, press clippings, pictures, works by his students and various other documents. 


Recordings of works by Tzvi Avni are available on Music Department's sound archive website:    

 Performance Pieces


 1. Epitaph piano sonata no.2


 2. Quintet for woodwinds


 3. Five Pantomimes


 4. Leda and the Swan, for soprano and clarinet


 5. Summer Strings


 6. Prayer, for strings


 7. Collage, for voice, flute, percussion and tape


 8. Meditations on a Drama


 9. Lyric Episodes, for oboe and tape


  • Tzvi Avni
  • Tzvi Avni at the piano
  • From "Three Little Night Songs" for voice and piano, lyrics by Leah Goldberg, 1957
    Manuscript of the song "Layla"
  • Quintet for woodwinds, title page of manuscript, 1959
  • Quintet for wind instruments, first page of manuscript, 1959
  • Manuscript notes on "Five Pantomimes for Orchestra: On Works by Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, Dali and Klee", 1968
  • First page of manuscript, Picasso - Guernica" from "Five Pantomimes for Orchestra: On Works by Picasso, Chagall, Kandinsky, Dali and Klee", 1968
  • Lyrics: Natan Zach
    Manuscript, "Songs and Melodies" in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, 1995
  • Handwritten performance list, 2005
  • Two movements from "Sinfonia Sacre", Tel Aviv, 1977
    Concert program, Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting
  • On the song "When I am with you" winning first place in the 1961 song festival. Lyrics: Pnina Avni
    Press clipping
  • On Avni's winning the ACUM Lifetime Acheivement Prize, from "Davar" 7.7.1986
    Press clipping
  • Letter to Tzvi Avni from the composer Yosef Tal, 1969
  • Letter to Tzvi Avni from the composer Paul Ben-Haim, 1972
  • Letter to Tzvi Avni from Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education and Culture Yigal Alon, 1974
  • Letter to Tzvi Avni from M Kalir, Director of the Tel Aviv Foundation for Literature and the Arts, 1977