Al Naharot Bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon) for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 33 (1935)

Note: This version (Op. 33) was composed in 1935 for Chamber Orchestra. Al Naharot Bavel Op. 33.1 was later written in 1939 for Symphonic Orchestra.

A recording from the Salute to Marc Lavry concert on June 17, 2012:
Barak Tal, Conductor
Tel-Aviv Soloists Ensemble

Orchestration: String Orchestra

Duration: 13:30 minutes

Publisher: The Marc Lavry Heritage Society

In a 1939 interview for the Davar newspaper, Lavry said about the composition: “Al Naharot Bavel” (By the Rivers of Babylon) the first composition I wrote in Israel in 1935, is a lament on devastated hopes, a song of repentance and regrets.”

There are two versions: For String Orchestra and for a small Symphonic Orchestra.
In 1933, Lavry felt that Germany was not safe for Jews. He immediately returned to his hometown, Riga. Within the year he decided that Riga too was unsafe for the Jews and he immigrated to Israel early 1935.

The main theme is based on a Sephardic melody Lavry became familiar with, whose text is from Psalms CXXXVII that describes the crying and the longing of the Diaspora Jews for Zion. The composer felt that he reached his homeland and was therefore compelled to share his emotions in an intimate yet crying lamentation.


Viktor Ullmann Festival 2015
Orchestra Abima
Davide Casali, Conductor

  • July 8, 2015
    Synagogue, via Ascoli, 19, Gorizia, Italy
  • July 9, 2015
    Jewish Museum, Via del Monte, 5, Trieste, Italy
  • 3. July 12, 2015
    Cividale del Friuli, Italy

Al Naharot Bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon) in Dresden, Germany, Nov. 19, 2013

Al Naharot - German…The Synagogue was packed, every seat taken. Works by Jewish composers were resurrected, reminding the audience of the systematic persecution of the Jews three quarters of a century ago.

The Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie Dresden invited the audience to take part in an evening of extremely thoughtful contemplation, including works by Franz Schreker, Alexander Zemlinsky, Marc Lavry and Franz Waxman…

Particularly moving was Lavry’s tone poem “Al Naharot Bavel”, a work that palpably expresses confusion, mourning and rage, in which the listener feels himself as if seized by hands shaking with anger, as if every bar of music wanted to cry out: ‘Why?’ The conductor Michael Hurshell and his Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra succeeded in building up, with this composition, a terrific, atmospheric tension in the Synagogue, that nearly reaches the breaking point.

— Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, Nov. 19, 2013 — by Nicole Czerwinka

Renovo String Orchestra
November 14, 2013
The Music Institute of Chicago, Illinois, USA

Les Sommets du Classique Music Festival, Switzerland
August 15, 2012
Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble
Barak Tal, Conductor

Salute Concert to Marc Lavry
June 17, 2012 8:30PM concert at the Enav Center in Tel-Aviv
Al Naharot Bavel performed by the Tel-Aviv Soloists Ensemble with conductor Barak Tal

Hadera Orchestra, Israel
April 12, 2011
Omri Hadari, Conductor

Neue Jüdische Kammerphilharmonie Dresden
Michael Hurshell, Conductor

  • May 17 & 18, 2009 – Mendelssohn Hall, Gewandhaus Leipzig; Jewish Community Center, Chemnitz
  • November 10, 2009, Saxon Representation to the Federation, Berlin
  • April 8, 2010, Great Hall of the International Congress Center, Dresden
2 Responses to Al Naharot Bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon) for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 33 (1935)
  1. Michael Hurshell
    January 13, 2014 | 1:15 am

    Dear Efrat,

    I seem to have misplaced your email address. Just wanted you to know that we performed Al Naharot Bavel again, at a memorial concert for Kristallnacht, on November 17 – the Dresden Synagogue was packed. Pleasesend me your address and I’ll send you a nice review.


    • Efrat Lavry
      January 13, 2014 | 8:34 am

      Thank you, Michael.
      I am very excited to hear that the performance was successful.
      I will also reach out to you over email.

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