Hagar Kadima

b. 1957

by Ronit Seter

Until the year 2000, when Hagar Kadima founded the Israel Women Composers’ Forum, which she chaired until 2005, not even connoisseurs could have named more than a handful of significant Israeli women composers. The Forum is especially significant when one considers that as of the early 1990s, out of approximately two hundred Israeli works performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (founded in 1936), only a handful were written by women composers. Moreover, until 2000, barely five percent of performances, broadcasts, recordings and commissions of contemporary music were by women composers. Only in 2002, when Betty Olivero assumed her position at Bar-Ilan University, did a woman composer serve as a faculty member of composition at an Israeli academic institution. The Forum’s activities led by Kadima—concerts of music by women composers, collaborations with visual and other performing women artists, dissemination of information on women composers through the media—have increased the recognition of many of the sixty women composers of art (concert, serious) music in Israel.

Kadima, the first Israeli woman composer to obtain a Ph.D. in composition (1988), was born on May 23, 1957 in Haifa. Her father, Abraham Kadima (formerly Walter Metzer), who was born in Vienna in 1925, immigrated to Palestine in 1938 and worked as a translator from and into English, German, Hebrew and Arabic. In 1957 he married Amita (Vita Recht), who was born in Warsaw in 1932, immigrated to Israel in 1949 and worked as a teacher and educational counselor. The couple, who had no children other than Hagar, divorced in 1961.

Kadima, who has composed music since her adolescence, began studies with Naomi Meiron. At the Rubin Academy of Music, Tel-Aviv University, she studied composition with Abel Ehrlich, her most influential teacher (Ehrlich, 1915–2003, was a 1997 Israel Prize laureate, one of only nine laureates for composition of art music since 1954). Other composers by whom she was inspired were Olivier Messiaen and Mordecai Seter. Kadima received her B.A. cum laude in music and philosophy from Tel Aviv University. She attended the 1985 Aspen summer school, taking classes with Luciano Berio, Jacob Druckman and Bernard Rands. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in composition at the University of California at Santa Barbara (1988), studying with Peter R. Fricker, Edward Applebaum and Emma Lou Diemer.

Kadima has won a number of prizes and awards, among which were the 1984 annual ACUM Prize, the Rostrum competition (European Radio, 1987) and the Prime Minister’s Composition Prize (2002). In addition, she has represented Israel internationally in the Aspekte Salzburg Festival (1990); in the ISCM festival in Warsaw (1992); and in Ireland (1995) as part of Ireland-Israel cultural exchange. Her chamber and orchestral music has been performed and broadcast in Israel, the United States and Europe. During the summer of 1996 she was a guest artist at Mishkenot Sha’ananim in Jerusalem. Her piece Not a Lament, written in memory of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was premiered in Germany in September 1996. Kadima has served on the music faculty at the Lewinsky Music Teachers’ College, Tel-Aviv, where she has taught ear training, harmony and composition.

Kadima’s music of the 1980s and the early 1990s exhibited work with clusters (dense dissonant chords)—but her clusters, as opposed to those used in avant-garde music, were softened and intertwined with tonal anchors, as in her 1983 Expansions. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, following similar trends in American and European music, Kadima’s music expressed the “return to tonality,” simultaneously with occasional use of atonality. Her style of the early 2000s, comparable to that of other Israeli composers of the third generation—without slogans or explicit intentions—demonstrates accepted markers of national identity, such as clearly intelligible and audible settings of texts by Hebrew poets (much unlike, say, blurred settings common in Western operas), and the use of modal melodies often found in the early Israeli song and art music. Unlike common Western and Israeli trends, however, she uses tonality and elements of repetition of simple patterns (cf. minimalism, such as in Steve Reich’s music), to explore what she defines as “the most flowing and yet fascinating musical process, in which a new musical element would be surprising but not destructive.” The ensemble for Sheva Nashim (Seven Women, 2003), a setting of a poem by Sh. Shifra, for example, includes mezzo soprano, three recorders, and oud (a kind of Arab guitar or lute)—producing a quasi-ethnic sound, especially due to the use of the Phrygian mode (close to the Arab maqam bayati) accentuating Kadima’s simple, naïve melody. Sheva Nashim, like most of Kadima’s works, is published by the Israeli Music Center of the Israel Composers’ League.


Musical Works

Once, text by Hagar Kadima, trans. by Housni Shada. For mezzo soprano, Arabian violin, oud, two violins and cello, 2004; Seven Women, text by Sh. Shifra. For mezzo soprano, three alto recorders and oud, 2003; Timing, text by Sh. Shifra. For women’s choir, 2001; Some Details on Threads. For harp solo, 1997; An Ancient Silence, text by Nathan Zach. For eight female singers, 1996; Not a Lament (in memory of Yizhak Rabin), text by Hagar Kadima. For soprano solo, 1995; Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, 1985–1995; A Dubious Closing Gesture. For violin, cello and piano, 1994; The Wonders, text by Nathan Zach. For women’s choir, 1994; Last Glimmers, text by Rahel. For soprano solo, women’s choir, three flutes and accordion, 1993–1994; A Friend and I, text by Yehuda Atlas. For children’s choir, 1993; Microscopic Differences. For two violins, 1991; String Quartet. 1985; Sound track for film Life is a Beach, with Delphine Ziegler. 1985–1987; Expansions. For solo piano, 1983; A Thought on Rain. For percussion ensemble, 1983; Sounds, text by Hagar Kadima. For five vocalists, 1983; Silences. For orchestra, 1982–1983; Clusters. For chamber orchestra, 1982; Six Little Dots in the Air for Brass Trio to Play With. For two trumpets and trombone, 1981–1982; Forgot What He Wanted to Say. For string quartet and soprano, 1981; Dualism IV. For solo bassoon, 1980; Dualism III. For solo piano, 1980; Dualism II. For solo oboe, 1980; Dualism I. For solo cello, 1980; Autosuggestion. For two violins, 1979; Octet. For woodwind ensemble, 1979; Madrigal. For vocal quintet, 1979; Two Madrigals. For vocal quartet, 1978–1979; Trio. For oboe, clarinet and bassoon, 1978; Duo. For French horn and piano, 1978; Trio. For flute, cello and piano, 1978; Untitled. For flute and piano, 1978; Trio. For violin, viola and cello, 1977.


“Nashim le-lo avar” (Women without a past). Tav+ 3 (Spring 2004): 42–52. On basic, practical problems of women composers in Western culture.


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Hagar Kadima (b. 1957).
Courtesy of Hagar Kadima.

How to cite this page

Seter, Ronit. "Hagar Kadima." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 16, 2021) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/kadima-hagar>.


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