Israeli composer dies, at 96

The Romanian-born Sergiu Natra died today.

A prolific composer in many forms, he was also an influential and much-loved teacher at Tel Aviv University.

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  • Dear Mr. Lebrecht, a typo: it’s Natra, with a final “a”, not ‘Natru’.

    A few facts about Sergiu Natra’s early years that may be less well known:
    • His first piano teacher was Nicolae Dinicu, a cousin of Grigoraș Dinicu, the violinist whose “Hora staccato” was featured here not long ago.
    • Notable among his teachers is Leon Klepper, himself a pupil of Franz Schreker and Paul Dukas, also of Alfred Cortot for piano. (The entry on Klepper in Schenk’s volume on Schreker’s pupils in Berlin was compiled by Daniel Lienhard, to whom Sergiu Natra dedicated one of his last major works, the Trio in One Movement for two French horns and harp, in 2006.)
    • Natra wrote his first major work, the Divertimento in stile antico, in Bucharest in 1943; it was performed that same year by the Jewish Symphony Orchestra in the same city.
    • Notice the date: 1943! Romanian Jews were still being deported to Transnistria, or worse, to the death camps. The Antonescu régime was regarded as Nazi Germany’s most fiercely loyal ally (which in many respects it was). And yet there still was this tiny glimmer of Jewish cultural life, despite the unimaginable oppression. (Bucharest also featured the only Jewish theatre that remained open throughout the war in a fascist country allied with Nazi Germany.) The history of this mind-boggling paradox deserves to be better known.
    • Natra’s next work, March and Choral for orchestra, was also written in 1943. It is hard to imagine how young Natra managed to survive, let alone compose such a piece. It was premièred in Bucharest in 1944.
    • Divertimento, and March and Choral, were awarded the Enescu Prize for composition in 1945. It was the last time that George Enescu himself presented the composition award which he had founded in 1913.

    • Thank you for this beautiful and in-depth info. I remember playing his Miniatures for Piano when I was still a little kid in Bucharest!

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