Michael Horvit received his bachelor of music and master of music degrees from Yale University and his doctorate of musical arts from Boston University. At those schools, at Tanglewood, and privately he benefited from composition studies with Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, Walter Piston, Quincy Porter, and Gardner Read. His compositions embrace a variety of media, including symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo voice, chorus, and electronically synthesized sounds—both singularly and in combination with traditional instruments.
Horvit is a professor of composition and theory at the University of Houston, Moores School of Music. He also served for a quarter of a century as the music director at Houston’s Temple Emanu El. Among his significant works are his Even When God Is Silent and A Child’s Journey, based on poems by the Israeli poet Yaakov Barzilai (recorded by the Master Chorale of Washington); Invocation and Exultation, for string orchestra, which has been performed throughout Europe and in Japan; Land of Dreams, a cantata celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel; The Mystic Flame, a choral symphony; a concerto for brass quintet and orchestra, commissioned by the Chicago Chamber Brass; Antiphon II, for clarinet and electronic tape; and The Gardens of Hieronymus B., premiered by the Houston Symphony, which Horvit has called a “free [musical] interpretation” of the painting by the 15th-century Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch—and whose title is taken from Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
Horvit has been the recipient of awards from BMI, ASCAP, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fridge Trust. He is also coauthor of three music theory textbooks.
In 1987 Temple Emanu El in Houston commissioned him to compose a setting of the Reform liturgy for the Yom Kippur afternoon service, which he titled Atonement Afternoon Service. The work was premiered at Temple Emanu El during its Yom Kippur services that same year, with Cantor Sharon Kohn and the congregation’s professional choir under the composer’s direction. During his long tenure at this temple he composed and arranged many other liturgical settings—a number of which have entered the American Reform repertoire.
The Milken Archive currently features several of Michael Horvit's liturgical settings as part of A Post-1970's Yom Kippur Afternoon, Memorial and Concluding Services in Volume 3.
By: Neil W. Levin