Joseph Achron

Joseph Achron (May 13, 1886 – April 29, 1943) was a Lithuanian born composer and violinist. His preoccupation with Jewish elements and his desire to develop a 'Jewish' harmonic and contrapuntal idiom, underscored and informed much of his work. Notable composer and friend Arnold Schönberg described Achron in his obituary as "one of the most underrated modern composers".

Biography
Achron was born in Lozdzieje, Poland (now Lazdijai, Lithuania) and began the study of the violin under his father, an amateur violinist, at the age of five. His first public performance followed three years later at age seven in Warsaw. This was followed by a prodigious childhood career including performances throughout Russia. Between 1899 and 1904 he studied violin under legendary teacher Leopold Auer and composition under Anatoly Ljadovat, at the Conservatory in St. Petersburg.

He joined the Society for Jewish Folk Music in 1911 and from that point occupied himself in theory and practice with the Jewish music tradition. His first 'Jewish' work ’’Hebrew Melody’’ became immediately recognised through the interpretation of violinist Jascha Heifetz. In 1913 Achron became the head of the violin and chamber music departments at the Kharkiv Conservatory in Russia, and served in the Russian Army between 1916 and 1918. In the years after World War I he toured extensively as a concert artist in Europe, the Near East and Russia, performing over 1000 concerts between 1919 and 1922. During this period he was appointed head of the violin masterclass and chamber music department at the Leningrad Artists' Union. In 1922 Achron moved to Berlin, where he, together with Michail Gnesin, ran the Jewish music publishing company "Jibneh". In 1924 Achron spent some months in Palestine.

In 1925 he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York, where he taught the violin at the Westchester Conservatory. He performed his Violin Concerto No. 1 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1927. His incidental music suite from H. Leivick's The Golem, also written during this period, was chosen by the ISCM for performance in Venice in 1932. In 1934 he moved to Hollywood, where he composed music for films and continued his career as a concert violinist. He performed his Violin Concerto No. 2 with the Los Angeles Philhamonic Orchestra in 1936 and his third (commissioned by Jascha Heifetz) with the same orchestra in 1939. Atonality and polytonality are among the techniques used in his later works. He died in Hollywood, CA in 1943.

He was the brother of the pianist and composer Isidor Achron.

Selected works

Orchestral
’’Hebrew Melody’’ Op. 33, for violin and orchestra (1911)
’’Hazen’’ Op. 34, for cello and orchestra (1912)
’’2 Hebrew Pieces’’ Op. 35 (1913)
’’Dance Improvisation’’ Op. 37 (circa 1913)
’’Shar’’ Op. 42, dance for clarinet and orchestra (1917)
’’2 Pastels’’ Op. 44, for violin and orchestra (1917)
’’The Fiddle's Soul’’ Op. 50 (1920)
’’Violin Concerto No. 1’’ Op. 60 (1925)
’’Konzertanten-Kapelle’’ Op. 64, for violin and orchestra (1928)
’’The Golem’’, suite for chamber orchestra (1932)
’’Dance Overture’’ (1932)
’’Little Dance Fantasy’’ (1933)
’’Violin Concerto No. 2’’ Op. 68 (1933)
’’Violin Concerto No. 3’’ Op. 72 (1937)

Choral
’’Epitaph (in memory of Skryabin)’’ Op. 38, for four voices and orchestra (1915)
’’Salome’s Dance’’ Op. 61, for mixed voices, piano and percussion (1925) / (1966)
’’Evening Service of the Sabbath’’ Op. 67, for baritone voice, four voices and organ (1932)

Chamber and Instrumental
’’1ère Suite en Style Ancien’’ Op. 21, for violin and piano (circa 1914) / (1923)
’’Chromatic String Quartet’’ Op. 26 (circa 1915)
’’Sonata No. 1’’ Op. 29, for violin and piano (circa 1915)
’’Symphonic Variations and Sonata on a Palestinian Theme’’ Op. 39, for piano (circa 1916)
’’Suite Bizarre’’ Op.41, for violin and piano (circa 1917)
’’Sonata No. 2’’ Op. 45, for violin and piano (circa 1917)
’’Children's Suite’’ Op.57, for clarinet, string quartet and piano (circa 1925)
’’Elegy’’ Op. 62, for string quartet (1927)
’’4 Improvisations’’ Op. 65, for string quartet (1927)
’’The Golem’’, for cello, trumpet, horn and piano (1931)
’’Sinfonietta’’ Op. 71, for string quartet (1935)

Miscellaneous
"Spring Night’’, ballet music for a short film (1935)