1977

Abraham Kaplan: Conductor


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"An evening of choral splendor"

--Headline in The New York Times

[Abraham Kaplan conducting the University Symphony and combined choruses]
  Abraham Kaplan conducting the University Symphony and combined choruses

After rising to the top of the New York music world, Abraham Kaplan joined the UW faculty as director of choral studies in 1977.

He is a third-generation choral conductor. His grandfather was a cantor and choral conductor in Eastern Europe. His father became the leading choral conductor in Israel. The young Abe discovered his passion while conducting a chorus for his unit in the Israeli army; when he returned to civilian life, Kaplan "went to the conservatory and plunged into choral conducting" with all his heart and soul, he recalls.footnote 1

In 1954, as a youth in his twenties, Kaplan ventured from his native Israel to New York to pursue music studies at Juilliard. He became assistant conductor there and received two diplomas before returning to Israel in 1957. In 1961, Kaplan came back to Juilliard to head the department of choral conducting. While serving in that capacity, Kaplan became involved in many guest conducting and recording activities. He served as conductor or musical director to eight different musical groups; gave a command performance at the White House; appeared on television specials, and made recordings with the New York Philharmonic.footnote 2

His work as conductor of the Camerata Symphony Orchestra from 1968 to 1977 won the praise of Leonard Bernstein, who commented upon the orchestra's "extraordinary musicianship and versatility, due in large measure to their heaven-sent maestro, Abraham Kaplan."footnote 2

"Thank you deeply and sincerely for your splendid work."

--Igor Stravinsky

Upon hearing the Camerata Singers--a group founded by Kaplan in 1960--perform his compositions, the great 20th century composer Igor Stravinsky wrote to Kaplan: "I have worked with many choruses and chorus directors during the course of my life and have rarely found both the aesthetic and personal pleasure that working with you and your group gave me."footnote 2

In addition to his 1977 performance in the White House in honor of President Urho Kekkonen of Finland, Kaplan gave a command performance in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on their 1983 visit to the U.S. Other highlights of his career include the preparation in 1954 of the world premiere of Darius Milhaud's opera David in Jerusalem, and in 1963, of the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's 3rd Symphony, Kaddish, in Tel-Aviv.

In addition to his teaching and conducting activities, Kaplan has written the most widely-used college textbook on the subject, Choral Conducting, now in its third printing.


  1. "Giving Voice to Their Passion," The Score: A Newsletter for the Seattle Symphony, Fall, 1995.
  2. "Kaplan leads by 'going forward alone'," University Week, May 20, 1984.

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