|July 13, 1912 -- October 22, 2000
This is a portrait of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, taken many years ago. Mme. Haïk-Vantoura
(née Vantoura) was a composer,
organist and music theoretician. Born in Paris, France in 1912, she entered the Conservatoire National Superieur
de Musique in Paris (CNSM) in 1931, and was awarded First Prize in Harmony (1934), First Prize in Fugue (1938),
and Honorable Mention in Composition (1939). She became the student of the great organist and composer Marcel Dupré
from 1941 to 1946, then devoted herself to music composition and teaching.
World War II interrupted her studies, and she fled with her family to southern France. While in hiding from the
Nazis, then-Mlle. Vantoura first approached a problem that had intrigued her since childhood: the original meaning
of the te`amim. By her account, she had learned in a French encyclopedia of music that these signs were ancient, musical and of unknown meaning.
Given the lack of correlation between the melodies of the synagogue communities and the physical features of the
notation itself, this appraisal was both plausible and objective -- and it became the starting point in Mlle. Vantoura's
After four months of intensive research (including the creation of interminable statistical tables), she became
certain (as her intuition had suggested) that only the sublinear te`amim have a fixed musical meaning; the superlinear te`amim have a subordinate musical meaning. Thus she was able to reconstruct a rough draft of the "Song of the Sea"
(Exodus 15); she was astonished at the results! After the war, however, the pressure of her studies and career
forced her to put the time-consuming project aside.
During and after the war, Haïk-Vantoura composed a number of works which expressed her independent personality.
Those listed on her own Web site include Quatuor florentin (played for the first time in 1942), Un beau dimanche (written in 1957), Destin d'Israël (written in 1964), Versets de psaumes pour 12 voix a capella (a work commissioned by the French Government in 1968) and Offrande (written in 1970). Other works in her curriculum vitae include Visages
d'Adam, Rhapsodie Israelienne, Un trio instrumental,
Jeu (for piano and violin), Poemes de la Pleiade (suite for piano), Temionage, Hymn liturgique
pour voix de soprano et quartuor, and Sept
motets for 12 mixed voices (another work commissioned by the French Government).
Another notable accomplishment: a recording produced by André Charlin, featuring
a text written by Haïk-Vantoura, spoken by Linette Lemercier, and set to music by Menuhin
et al., entitled Magie des Instruments (Helios MA301). In addition to all this, Haïk-Vantoura became an organist at the Synagogue
de l'Union liberale Israelite de Paris (1946-53) and the Eglise Saint-Helene de Paris (1966-79); an honorary professor
of music education (1937-61); a published composer (Un beau dimanche for instrumental trio, 1970; and Adagio for saxophone and organ, 1976); and the wife of Mr. Maurice Haïk, who passed away in
1976. (The couple had no children.)
Over the years, Haïk-Vantoura would approach the problem of the biblical notation now and again, but never
had the time to devote herself to solving it. Finally, her old teacher Marcel Dupré and others urged her to complete
her work. After her "retirement" in 1970, she devoted herself to the task and (by her own testimony)
was overwhelmed at times by the sheer scale of it. It took her four years to complete her decipherment, and another
two years to prepare the first edition of her French book La musique de la
Bible révélée (Robert Dumas, 1976) and the Harmonia Mundi
LP of the same name (also in 1976). The second edition of her French book (Dessain et Tolra, 1978) won the Prix Bernier of the Institute des Beaux Arts de France,
at that time its highest award.
Since that time, Haïk-Vantoura produced or supervised the production of no less than six new recordings (two by Esther Lamandier
and one by Mira Zakai); four scores with accompaniment corresponding to four recordings
(Volumes 1-3 and Cantique
des cantiques); three scores without accompaniment
(Les 150 Psaumes dans leurs mélodies
Meghilot and Message biblique intégrale); several articles in academic journals; and a supplement to her original book. (Since Haïk-Vantoura's death, two more
recordings, an a capella version of Cantique des cantiques
and Le livre d'Isaïe, have been published by Esther Lamandier
to date.) Though Haïk-Vantoura was long nearly invalid, she had her own Web site,
which remained up and running for some time after her death: www.institutionroidavid.com. Regrettably, this site seems to be down permanently.
On October 22, 2000, on the day called Simhat Torah ("Rejoicing
of the Law") in Judaism -- the very day when the liturgical cycle for one year ends and another begins in
the Rabbinic synagogues -- Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura passed away in Switzerland after complications resulting
from influenza. She was 88 years old. As of October 24, legalities permitting, she was scheduled to be buried in
France on October 30. This information (transmitted to me by Dennis Weber) came from Haïk-Vantoura's grand-nephew
The following obituary in French is taken from the Musica et Memoria site (Obituares 08/2000 - 11/2000),
and is used with permission.
"La musicologue, organiste et compositeur Suzanne Haïk-VANTOURA est décédée
en Suisse, à Lausanne, le 22 octobre 2000. Née en 1912 à Paris, Mlle Vantoura avait rejoint
le CNSM où elle obtenait plusieurs prix d'écriture. Mariée à Maurice Haïk, elle
commença par se consacrer à l'enseignement et à la composition. C'est ainsi qu'on lui doit
notamment un Quatuor à cordes, sept Motets, un Poème pour piano et orchestre et un poème liturgique,
Judas le pieux. Egalement organiste, elle avait rejoint en 1969 les rangs de l'Union des Maîtres de Chapelle
et Organistes, alors présidée par Henri Busser. Peu de temps après elle se passionnait pour
le mystère du sens des signes musicaux contenus dans la Bible hébraïque et réussissait
à en retrouver le sens puis à en établir une grille de lecture. Elle put ainsi faire éditer
cinq mille versets dans leur mélodie originelle et a publié en 1976 le résultat de ses travaux
dans son livre La musique de la Bible révélée. Une notation millénaire décryptée
(Ed. Robert Dumas, 503 pages, fort in-8). Ses recherches sont actuellement poursuivies par Gilles Tiar dans un
institut créé en Israël, portant le nom de «Shir Hashirim». Elle résida longtemps
dans un appartement de la rue d'Artois (Paris, IXe), non loin de la maison où mourut, en 1863, le poète
et romancier Alfred de Vigny."
Denis HAVARD DE LA MONTAGNE
This is a photo of Mme. Haïk-Vantoura which I took after her one concert in the
United States, in San Francisco, CA. (October 6, 1985 -- the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles). The concert
was sponsored by Temple Emmanuel and the University
of San Francisco's Judaic Studies Chair, and featured the male vocal group
Chanticleer. Dennis Weber, Suzanne's translator and assistant, was the narrator for the concert (of which
I got a tape).
Haïk-Vantoura's discovery has been featured in many concerts in
France and Israel as well, both before and after this U.S. concert.
From 1983 until a few years ago at this writing, I gave teaching seminars and giving mini-concerts of my own in the U.S.,
London (UK), and Mexico City.
This photo is of Mme. Haïk-Vantoura and her translator Dennis Weber, after the 1985
concert. Several years later, Mr. (later Dr.) Weber took on the daunting task of translating the elegant classical
French of Haïk-Vantoura's book into American English. Mine was to review and edit the text... and sometimes
the results were a little mixed (as were the reviews). Thus Haïk-Vantoura's French book (2nd edition) became
The Music of the Bible Revealed (BIBAL
Press/King David's Harp, Inc., 1991).
Longtime readers of this Web site will recall
that I used to have a great deal of information regarding her work
publicly available onsite. As much as I wish I could remain so
unguarded in its distribution, I can be no
longer. I have been "burned" a few times too often. It is important
to respect Haïk-Vantoura's work for what it is.
This photo (taken several decades ago) is of Esther Lamandier, an early music specialist
in France. (She is playing a modern reconstruction of a Gothic harp.) At this writing (March 2003) I have only recently gotten in touch with her, and I hope our contact
leads to further cooperation between us in expanding and expounding The Music
of the Bible Revealed.
Before taking up Mme. Haïk-Vantoura's work, Mme. Lamandier produced a number of recordings of Jewish and Aramaic
Christian chants (as well as one or two recordings of popular music) through her own label, Disques Alienor. In
time she obtained the rights to publish three of Haïk-Vantoura's recordings and produced several more recordings
based on Haïk-Vantoura's work.
This is a rather dated photo of myself, John
Wheeler [who often writes under the nom
de plume of Johanan Rakkav
(יוחנן רכב)], holding
Alef, a Morgan Meadow lap
harp designed by Wm. Rees Traditional Instruments. You can't see the
half-shekel coin inlaid into the base of the harp's neck, hidden behind my head (the coin being designed and minted
by Reuven Prager of Beged
Ivri), nor the decorative Hebrew letter
alef painted on the other side
of the neck -- but trust me, they're there.
With the death of Mme. Haïk-Vantoura and the rise of other factors,
there have been great changes in how her work has been made
available to the public. Now I am taking further measures to protect
AND PUBLIC CONTACTS
This WAV sound file (MIDI-to-WAV, no voices) demonstrates how SHV’s
deciphered melody of Psalm 122, with her added vocal and instrumental
parts, would sound in the “just intonation” originally used by the
biblical authors—as opposed to the modern “equal temperament” which she
used in her recordings. Bear in mind, her scores were evocations, not
reconstructions, of the “heterophony” of antiquity, and she addressed
the question of ancient temperament only in theory, not in practice.
I put up this one example
because most regrettably, the
near-entirety of SHV’s opus is out of print. That includes the bulk of
the recordings (Volumes 1, 2 and 4, the original Song of Songs
recording, and Esther Lamandier’s recording of the Song of Songs
and other tracks), all of the scores published privately by the
Institution Roi David (to give their English titles: The 150
Psalms, Four Megillot, and The Complete Message of the
Bible), and the French and English editions of SHV’s book. Two
scores published by Editions Choudens in Paris are still in
print; it may be possible to obtain licensing rights to reprint the
recordings by SHV and her associates are still in stock and readily
available: all but the recording Romances found on
this page of Esther Lamandier’s recordings. (That recording,
Mme. Lamandier’s first, is interesting and beautiful in its own right,
and contains “covers” of many famous Sephardic Jewish songs plus four
Christian Aramaic chants.)
That this seminal work may not be lost to
public knowledge and to future generations (although how many people
discuss the work under its original French title on Facebook at any one
time—over 60,000, when I last checked—is astounding), I provide here
links to two out-of-print resources: the
French book (2nd edition) and the
Recently I confirmed that the
Volume 3 score, and the
Supplement to the Volume 3 score are out of print, and so for the
present I offer these in PDF format as well. They will enable those
interested to learn and perform the music on the
Volume 3 CD, which is still in print.
This brings us to SHV's scores which I know
in print. For
information on these, I began searching here:
225 avenue Charles de Gaulle
92528 Neuilly sur Seine Cedex
+33 1 47 15 47 15
If one searches for “Suzanne Vantoura” (not “Suzanne
neither form of which is listed) here,
one should be able to find listings for many of SHV’s works—apparently,
the scores published by Editions Choudens of Paris. There used to
be contact information concerning Editions Choudens with regard to these
works. Now, I can find nothing about them on SACEM’s listings.
The most recent information I have concerning
Editions Choudens' location in France follows:
38, rue Jean Mermoz
Tel: (33) 01 42 66 62 97
Fax: (33) 01 42 66 62 79
I also have news—dating
to 2007—concerning the acquisition of Editions Choudens by Music
Sales Group, plus
an email address for inquiries. Strangely, a search for her works on
Music Sales Group’s Web site
finds her name, but no works listed! The
other listing concerns her score of Psalms 24, 150 and 122, which
was her Volume 1 Supplement. No ordering information is given with these
Requests for licensing, reprints and the like made to the Music Sales
Group are handled via
this page and
its internal links. (This could be very good news if the MSG is willing
to cooperate!) Another link leads one to
this page, which concerns SHV’s teaching books—but nothing
concerning “The Music of the Bible Revealed”.
Presto Classical Online
has listings for sheet music here, not only for two of SHV’s
compilations of biblical chant scores (Volume 1 and Volume 2), but for several of her original works and
treatises. As often happens, SHV’s last name is misspelled in some of
the listed works. Nevertheless, it is possible to purchase some of SHV’s
musical scores online—albeit at a very high price!
Presently the public contact for SHV's work is Avi Wollman, via
the Shir ha-Shirim Web site in
Israel and its associated
This link has the email address. Limited information is available on
my own Facebook page.
|Updated February 16, 2016