University names composition award after Brandeis alumnus
Musician and composer Henri Lazarof M.A. ’59 has been honored with an international composition award.
The University established an international composition award in honor of musician and composer Henri Lazarof M.A. ’59 in January. The Henri Lazarof Living Legacy includes the composition award, several concert series and an archival exhibit in the Goldfarb Library.
Applicants for the award must submit two recent works in any musical style and using any musical instruments to be reviewed by a panel of anonymous judges, Senior Academic Administrator of the Music Department Mark Kagan said in an interview with the Justice on Thursday. The winner of the Henri Lazarof International Commission Prize will be announced at the Henri Lazarof Concert Series on April 5, according to the prize’s webpage. The winner will then create a composition to be performed at the Spring 2021 Henri Lazarof Chamber Concert and will receive $15,000. This chamber concert will be an annual occurrence, Chair of the Music Department Mark Berger told the Justice in an interview on Wednesday. He said that alongside the performance of the winning piece, guest artists will perform a piece by Lazarof. The winning composer will have to compose a piece that matches the instrumentation of the Lazarof composition, Kagan said. This year’s instruments are the flute, harp and viola.
Lazarof was interested in composition from a young age, Kagan said. Lazarof began his musical training under Paul Ben-Haim in Israel, then he won an award to study in Rome. He was then invited to study at Brandeis with Harold Shapiro and Arthur Berger where he earned his MFA in 1959. Lazarof created a total of 126 compositions throughout his career, and he was also an avid art collector. In 2007, he and his wife Janice donated a total of 130 pieces of art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Lazarof finished his career teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“In addition to being a great composer, [Lazarof] was very well known as a[n] incredible teacher of composition, and he was a very strong advocate for other composers’ music as well, so it seems natural that we would use this gift in a way that would promote the creation of new music,” Berger said.
Kagan explained that at the time that the family approached the Music Department for this project, they were also considering other institutions. The department worked with the family to design and negotiate the best way to promote Lazarof’s legacy, and the family chose Brandeis. “Brandeis was always a very special place for Henri Lazarof … from the years that he spent here, so I think that played a role,” Berger said. Berger estimated that the process of negotiating and establishing the programs took about a year and a half.
According to Berger, Brandeis has already made a name for itself in the music composition world, but this international award will bring more prestige and recognition to the University. In addition, these new programs will help bring in new musicians for students to see and showcase works by Lazarof that are not frequently performed. “This is going to help bring a lot of those great pieces of music that he composed to life while at the same time supporting other composers as well,” Berger said.
Kagan explained that the University publicized this composition award by approaching any university affiliated with a music department.
“I’ve received a query in French which indicates to me it was either from Canada or France,” Kagan said. “This is great because we want this competition to reach international [audiences] … and we’re expecting hundreds of applicants.”
Berger explained that although Lazarof is considered great in the music composition community, his work is not performed often because of its difficulty. “His music is challenging.” Berger said. “It’s very expressive, very fluid and it’s not easy music, but it’s very serious and very heartfelt and that kind of music requires a certain level of performer.”
The Henri Lazarof Archives will officially open on April 5 and will include manuscripts, audio materials, photographs and more, according to the archives’ webpage.
This composition prize is not available to Brandeis students. However, Kagan said that the Lazarof Living Legacy is expanding to New Music Brandeis. In 2022, the organization will assist in funding a concert in which student compositions will be featured alongside Lazarof’s compositions. This concert will occur every few years, Kagan said.
“I like to think [that compositions are] an expression of our time and the challenges we face now. You see that in contemporary art, movies and music,” Kagan said. “Music is a mirror and a reflection of our lives.”