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Alberto Hemsi

Alberto Hemsi (23rd December 1986 - 7th October 1975) Italian composer, ethnomusicologist and music publisher. After education at the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Turgutlu, from 1907 he attended the school of the Société Musicale Israélite in Izmir, studying composition with Shemtov Shikayar and cantorial music with Isaac Algazi. He won a scholarship to Milan Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Zavaldi and Pozzoli (theory and solfège), Gatti (orchestration), Zampieri (history), Bossi (composition) and Andreoli (piano) (1914–15, 1917–19). His studies were interrupted by war service and Hemsi was severely wounded. He returned to Izmir to teach, then on to Rhodes (1923–7) and finally Alexandria. From 1920 he became intensely interested in the traditional music of Sephardi Jewry, collecting material around the eastern Mediterranean, in Alexandria, Jerusalem, Rhodes, Turgutlu, Manisa, Izmir and Thessaloniki. Most of the material in Coplas sefardíes, the work which established his reputation, was furnished by the Sephardi communities of Alexandria, Istanbul and Sofia; his well-suited piano accompaniments brought these songs into the salons and concert halls. In Alexandria he founded the Edition Orientale de Musique, the first Egyptian house to publish the work of composers familiar with Middle Eastern culture. In his own music he sought a compromise between Western technique and oriental tradition, believing that harmonic, equal-tempered music would replace microtonal heterophony. He founded a conservatory to propagate these ideas; he also established and conducted the Alexandria PO (1928–40) and was music director of the Grand Elihu Ha-navi Synagogue (1927–57). In 1957 he left for Paris to become professor of music at the Jewish Seminary; in the following year he was made music director of the Berith Shalom synagogue. He studied ethnomusicology under Marcel-Dubois at the Sorbonne (1961–5) and was active in French radio thereafter.

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Chandos Records
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