Aharon Harlap is one of Israel’s most prominent and well known composers and conductors. He was born in Canada, where he began his musical career as a pianist. He completed his studies in Music and Mathematics at the University of Manitoba in 1963, and in 1964 immigrated to Israel.
He studied composition under P. Racine Fricker at London’s Royal College of Music and Oedoen Partos at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. He also studied conducting with Sir Adrian Boult in London, Hans Swarowsky in Vienna and Gary Bertini in Israel.
Harlap is widely known as an orchestral, operatic and choral conductor and has appeared as guest conductor with orchestras and opera houses in Canada, the USA, Europe and South Africa. His own compositions have also been performed in all of these countries, including works for choir, chamber ensembles and symphony orchestras. In Israel he has appeared as guest conductor with most of the major orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Sinfonette Beer Sheva, the Kibbutzim Chamber Orchestra ,the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.
In 1979 Harlap was awarded a prize for his oratorio The Fire and the Mountains in an international competition on the subject of the “Holocaust and Rebirth ” (text: Israel Eliraz). In 1983 he was the recipient of the ACUM prize for "Three songs for mezzo-soprano and symphony orchestra " set to poems by Leah Goldberg and Yehuda Amichai. In 1993 he won the Mark Lavry Prize for Composition, awarded by the Haifa Municipality, for his choral-orchestral work:"For dust you art, and to dust you shall return "(Genesis III).
In 1997 Harlap’s opera Thérèse Raquin (based on the Emile Zola novel of the same name with libretto by Dana Gur) won a prize sponsored by the New Israel Opera, and in the same year he also received the ACUM Prize for his Clarinet Concerto. In 1999 he received the Prime Minister’s Award for composition, and in 2004 the ACUM Prize again, this time for his Bassoon Concerto.
The opera Therese Raquin was recently performed ( May 2005) at the annual Israel Festival, and received public and critical acclaim.
A CD released in 1997 by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stanley Sperber, included Harlap’s Symphony No. 2, L’Oiseau de la Guerre (Bird of War), which was inspired by the painting of that name by Dutch artist Hans Hogendoorn.
2002 saw the world premiere of The Divine Image by the Illinois Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Kiesler, at that time music director and principal conductor of the orchestra.. The work is written for soprano, mezzo soprano and baritone soloists, choir and symphony orchestra, and based on texts from William Blake, Psalms and Isaiah. Other Harlap works performed by Kenneth Kiesler and the Illinois Symphony Orchestra include the overture "Anniversary" and an orchestral suite based on Hanukah songs entitled Music for the Festival of Lights. These works have also been performed throughout the years with other orchestras in the USA as well as in Israel.
In 2001 Harlap was invited to Hungary to conduct the Dohnanyi Symphony Orchestra in Budapest. Among other works, the program included Harlap’s Clarinet Concerto and Pictures from the Private Collection of God , a song cycle for soprano solo, oboe and strings, composed to texts by Yaakov Barzilai, a Holocaust survivor originally from Hungary. The work met with great success, following which Harlap was again invited in 2003 and 2004 to conduct the Solti Chamber Orchestra, which again performed the same song cycle as well as another Harlap work based on texts from Psalms – a song cycle for soprano solo, clarinet and strings. Recently Hungary’s MAV orchestra performed another song cycle by Harlap," My father will no longer bless the bread" also set to poems by Yaakov Barzilai and conducted by the Israeli conductor Yaron Gottfried.
In 2004 the Donau Orchestra ( Budapest) performed the third song cycle "Letters weeping in Fire" set to texts by Yaakov Barzilai , with conductor Harvey Bordowitz and the Hungarian mezzo soprano Maria Therese Uribe.
Harlap’s opera Wings, composed under the auspices of Mifal Hapayis (the national lottery) and based on the writings of Gibran Khalil Gibran, received its world premier performance by the Israel Chamber Orchestra at the end of January 2005 under Harlap's musical direction.
In the 2005 season, the Israeli Philharmonic performed the world premiere of the Bassoon Concerto which received the ACUM prize in 2004. The work was composed for the orchestra’s principal bassoon player, Uzi Shalev, and was also performed
In July 2006 Harlap represented Israel as an international choral judge at the World Choir Games held in Xiamen , China.. In 2004 , the Games were held in Bremen, Germany and the one before that (2002 ) in Busan, Korea . Both in Xiamen and Bremen, Harlap represented Israel as a judge as well.
Aharon Harlap has currently completed his viola concerto dedicated to the international violist Rivka Golani. The work received its premier performance in Budapest, Hungary on May 20, 2007 with the Dohnanyi – Budafok Orchestra, Budapest under the direction of the orchestra's music director Gabor Hollerung. The Israeli premier was performed on Sept. 17 in Haifa, Israel with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra . The soloist was once again Rivka Golani, and was conducted by the composer.
Harlap is a senior lecturer in choral and orchestral conducting at the Jerusalem Academy of Music .He is also Music Director and conductor of the Kefar Sava Chamber Choir since 1997.
Aharon Harlap received the "Life Achievement Award" in 2008 from ACUM (Composers' and Authors Organization of Israel) for his life's contribution to music in Israel as a composer.
Recently he completed his second piano concerto, the world premier of which was performed at the "Sounds of the Desert" Festival at Sde Boker in Israel on December 21, 2008 by the Israel Philharmonic orchestra, conducted by Omer Wellber. The piano soloist was Nimrod David Pfeffer.
On October 17th, 2009 , Harlap's song cycle for soprano solo and chamber orchestra "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee O Lord", received its world premier with the "Israel Sinfonietta Beer-Sheva" at Beer-Sheva, Israel. The soprano soloist was Sharon Rostorf-Zamir and was conducted by the Orchestra's Music Director and Principal conductor Maestro Doron Salomon.
Harlap has recently returned from Budapest, Hungary where he performed his "Psalms" with the soprano soloist Sharon Rostorf-Zamir and the George Solti Chamber Orchestra (Dec. 6, 2009).
In November of 2010, The Israel Camerata , Jerusalem under the baton of their musical director Prof. Avner Biron, performed the world premier of "Sinfonia Breve" in eight performances throughout Israel.
Harlap just returned once again from Budapest, where his “Concerto for Orchestra” received its world premier by the Dohnanyi-Budafok Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the orchestra’s music director Gabor Hollerung ( Jan. 14, 2012).
In February , 2012 Harlap received an award from Mifal Hapayis (National Lottery) for his Musical play “King Solomon and the Bee”, scored for soprano, mezzo soprano, and baritone soloists, narrator, mixed chorus (SATB), piccolo and string orchestra.
His recently composed Cello concerto (2012) was dedicated to the memory of his cousin “Babs” Asper ,wife of Izzy Asper, in whose memory the 2nd piano concerto was dedicated. The work will be performed at Mishkenot Shaananim, Jerusalem in June 2013 by students of the Jerusalem Academy of Music .
This past year(2013), two more compositions have been added to Harlap’s list of compositions:
1. Itamar- a children’s suite for flute and string orchestra
2. Kohelet- a cantata for sop., mezzo-soprano, and baritone soli, SATB chorus and piano/strings.
On February 23rd, 2014, Harlap’s concerto for 2 pianos and symphony orchestra will be performed in St. Petersburg , Russia with the duo pianists Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony.
All of Harlap’s major compositions are published by the Israel Music Institute (IMI) and Or –Tav Publications.