Composition Colloquium: Aviya Kopelman

Colloquium | April 5 | 3 p.m. | 250 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

Aviya Kopelman is a leading Israeli composer, born in Moscow, raised in Jerusalem and living in Tel-Aviv. Since 2014 she serves as the Composer-in-Residence of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Right upon her graduation recital, Aviya grabbed the attention of all of Israel’s major newspapers, that described her music as “distinct, radical, pure, expressive, dramatic, and personal”.

One of the youngest ever recipients of the Israeli Prime Minister’s Prize for Composition (2007), Kopelman is also the winner of the “Kronos: Under 30 Project”, in which she was exclusively chosen to write a work commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet (co-commissioned with Carnegie Hall, NY) out of more than 300 competitors from across the world. The work has been performed in major venues around the world and recorded for a CD.

Kopelman returned twice more to Carnegie Hall. First as a composer and piano performer in another work commissioned by CH for singers and ensemble, and once again as part of the Professional Training Workshop with the Kronos Quartet.

From the very beginning of her musical journey, Kopelman’s attention was focused at esthetic subjects as well as identity issues. Among her pieces can be found works dealing with the memory of the Holocaust, with Jewish theological-philosophical idea of free will and God’s presence in our lives, and with the silence of the world during the WWII Jewish Holocaust and with how the climate of nationalism creates a general lack of empathy for humanity.

One of her works is dedicated to the victims of terror of the 2nd Intifada, when another one – “Between Gaza and Berlin” – was written during the “Protective Edge” military operation in 2014, referring both to the complicated political situation and to the cultural situation in Israel, which often seems to be stuck between Western ambition and Middle-Eastern reality. Kopelman wrote a concerto for oud and violin, pointing at the special musical culture that is being created in Israel and in the Middle East nowadays, culture that has a lot in common with the Baroque Concerto Grosso. She has set music for many Jewish texts, from Biblical verses on various subjects relevant to our time to modern Jewish and Israeli poetry.

Another important theme for Kopelman is feminism. As a woman in a highly male-dominated profession (and world…), Kopelman feels increasingly more connected to feminist issues and obliged to raise awareness and provoke thought on women-related subjects. One example is the Hebrew Magnificat, a piece for choir and orchestra, that builds a Feminist-Jewish parallel to the common Magnificat, using Latin, German and Hebrew texts and chants, focusing on various aspects of maternity. Another work in progress is “A Dollar of Her Own”, a song cycle for singers and orchestra on the delicate subject of women and money (or the lack of it).


In her commissioned work for the Kronos Quartet, “Widows and Lovers”, Kopelman continued to experiment with the combination of live and pre-recorded electronics with acoustic instruments, an exploration started previously in a cello solo work commissioned by the award-winning cellist Gavriel Lipkind. The cello piece was later performed by Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt.

Throughout her musical journey, Kopelman has been searching for her most truthful, accurate and up-to-date musical path. One of Kopelman’s hallmarks today is her multi-genre work that combines her diverse musical passions. Some examples include working with a Jazz-Fusion ensemble based on Classical masterpieces, recording an album of her songs, combining contemporary instrumental writing with alternative art-Rock, using live electronics and continuing her career as a contemporary concert composer.

While composition is the core of her artistic career, Kopelman has also been teaching from a very early stage and sees it as a vocation. She has more than 12 years of postgraduate teaching experience, working in leading institutions such as Rimon School of Music and Hed College, as well as continuously guest lecturing in Israeli high-education institutions and giving workshops and courses for youths.

Holding an MA Summa Cum Laude in composition, Kopelman is a Presidential Scholarship PhD student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

 music@berkeley.edu