Saturday, January 24, 2015

Puccini's "La Rondine" at the Israeli Opera

Giacomo Puccini
The Israeli Opera’s most recent production has been Giacomo Puccini’s “La Rondine”. Conceived as a commission from Vienna’s Carltheater in 1913, this was Puccini’s only attempt to write a hybrid Italian-opera-Viennese-operetta, much as the idea of the operetta element displeased him. Puccini, however, made his conditions clear - that there would be no spoken texts, only sung. Once working together with librettist Giuseppe Adami, he did become amenable to the idea of writing a light, romantic opera. The premiere and its location had to be changed, due to constraints of World War I, and the opera was premiered in 1917 at the Grand Theatre de Monte Carlo, on neutral territory. This writer attended the performance at the Israeli Opera House in Tel Aviv on January 17th 2015.

“La Rondine” is set in Paris and the French Riviera in the mid-19th century. The least known of Puccini’s later operas, it tells of the lavishly kept woman of a rich, elderly banker; she, however, craves romantic love and falls for Ruggero, a naïve, earnest younger man from a respectable family. She, Magda, is the “swallow” (rondine), a bird which flies towards the sun. Magda (Aurelia Florian) and her young lover Ruggero (Zoran Todorovich) enjoy an idyllic existence, living on borrowed time, until he presents his marriage proposal to her; she then reveals her past, telling him she can never be his wife and the opera ends with both of them heartbroken as she returns to her former life. Then there is the other, even less likely couple - Lisette, Magda’s maid, played by Hila Baggio and the poet Prunier, portrayed by Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu.

In a story of sweet sentimentality and seductive charm, showing life of the French upper crust and not-so-upper, the audience was presented with a feast for the eyes, both in sets and costumes: the first scene is the fashionable, elegant party scene at Magda’s Paris salon, followed by the buzzing, vibrant ever-so-French café scene, its stage crowded with people of different elements of society – stylish people, revelers and the risqué dancing of can-can girls and their sleazy partners; the final scene is set in an exotic, opulent summer house. And if “clothes make the man”, we were presented with all the most exquisite dress sense the late 19th century. But if the audience is bothered by a storyline that is somewhat on the lightweight side, there is always Puccini’s music which is rich and caressing, its dance rhythms intertwined into soaring melodic lines and daring, sophisticated, shifting harmonies.

The singers were of a high quality. Bass-baritone Vladimir Braun made for an authoritative Rambaldo Fernandez (Magda’s protector). Israeli soprano Hila Baggio, as Lisette, was coquettish, youthful and appealing, her brightly colored vocal timbre and whimsy both delighting the audience. Romanian tenor Marius Brenciu, no newcomer to the Israeli Opera, was an aloof, elusive and polished Prunier (a role he has sung at the Metropolitan Opera.) As Ruggero, lirico-spinto tenor Zoran Todorovich partnered Aurelia Florian with polish and much fine singing. Romanian soprano Florian, displaying natural theatrical ability and endowed with a voice abounding in flexibility, a palette of interesting colors and a large range of dynamic variety, gave her all to the role of Magda - feminine charm, passion and emotion - winning the audience over with her total involvement. The Israel Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Maestro Frédéric Chaslin, performed with elegance, at times with reserve.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Michael Tsalka performs Bach's Goldberg Variations on clavichord

Ever since Glen Gould’s five recordings of J.S.Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on piano, his
interpretations of them have been discussed endlessly. Then came Wanda Landowska’s first performance on harpsichord in 1933. In the meantime, many, many more recordings have come onto the scene, played on all manner of historical- and less historical keyboard instruments - on organ, guitar, harp, marimba, flute and piano, string trio, orchestra, etc. All these performances attest to the fact that fascination with this one hour of almost constant G major music based on a much-used 32-note ground goes well beyond what the composer referred to on the title page as variations “composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits.” Having previously performed them on harpsichord, chamber organ, square piano, fortepiano and modern piano, Dr. Michael Tsalka has now recorded the Goldberg Variations BWV 988 on two clavichords, taking the listener into a very different sound world. In his liner notes, Dr. Tsalka explains how he chose to alternate between the two instruments, both built by Sebastian Niebler (Berlin) – a clavichord of a “lyrical timbre”, based on a 1796 instrument by Johann Christoph Georg Schiedmayer (Boston Museum of Fine Arts) and a more “robust-sounding” instrument based on South German and Swedish models from the late 18th century, such as those built by Christian Gottlob Hubert, Jacob Specken and Schiedmayer. “Some listeners might “This was not the case; quite a few decisions were taken in the spur of the moment, an intuitive response to the technical and expressive requirements found in each variation”. The work was recorded in Berlin in 2012, for the PALADINO label - PMR0032.

So why play the Goldberg Variations on clavichord? One reason is probably that a work as personal as the Goldberg Variations would surely have been played within the confines of the Bach home and the clavichord is indeed a house instrument of the time. Another reason would be that the clavichord is one of the most expressive, responsive and sensitive of keyboard instruments; the depression of the key strikes the string, thus offering variation of touch as well as the possibility to produce a form of vibrato. So once a key is struck, the sound needs continuous nurturing, demanding much skill and listening on the part of the player. As to the instrument’s soft voice, easily masked by the most minimal of background sounds or even by the player’s breathing, research has shown that the clavichords on which Bach played were not as weak in volume as those built in the early 20th century’s revival of the instrument. But, most importantly, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, Bach’s first biographer, wrote that the clavichord was Bach’s favorite keyboard instrument, allowing him to “express his most refined thoughts”.

Listening to this recording, one is embarking on a unique listening experience, one only to be compared with that of hearing the clavichord played at very close range. It presents an opportunity to tune into a timbre whose directness needs no cosmetic help in presenting Bach’s wealth of ideas and use of several high Baroque forms. In the opening galant-style Aria, Tsalka not only plays with spontaneity, he offers the singing quality of the (vocal) aria as a message to the listener – that we are about to hear this instrument really “sing”. We are then lured into the sound world of each variation, be it the embellished energy of Variation IV, the vivid harmonic coloring tugging at one’s heart strings in the meditative Variation XIII, the uncompromising, confrontational power of tension in Variation XIV, Tsalka’s acknowledging of Bach’s quirky humor in Variation XIV or the probing, soul-searching process of (the minor) Variation XXV, its staggered voices and expressive dissonances played out by the artist with his own sense of wonder and discovery. I found myself not wanting to part from this movement. From here, Tsalka launches into the sweeping intensity of the final variations, a mammoth web of Bach’s most sophisticated, complex and dense counterpoint. Rather than place a musical joke after these compelling variations, Dr. Tsalka chooses a direct, fresh and noble reading of the Quodlibet (Variation XXX). And, prior to the return of the Aria, how relevant it is that the recording technicians did not delete the sound of the artist inhaling in preparation of the final gesture: here was the Aria that had inspired the work, played by the artist with understatement and humility.

This is a recording to interest, surprise and delight listeners. Michael Tsalka’s performance of the Goldberg Variations on two clavichords is articulate and brilliant, allowing for projection of Bach’s counterpoint and subtly shaped inner voices and bass lines, neither being lost in the complex textures. In playing that bristles with creativity and emotion, he makes fine use of both instruments’ palette of colors.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Michael Tsalka is a versatile artist. He plays solo and chamber music repertoire from early Baroque to contemporary repertoire, performing throughout Europe, the USA, Canada, Asia and Latin America. He is currently teaching keyboard performance at the Lilla Akademien in Stokholm and is visiting professor at the Celaya Conservatory in Guanajuato, Mexico.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Early music at the 2015 Eilat Chamber Music Festival


From February 4th to 7th, the 2015 Eilat Chamber Music Festival will take place at the Dan Hotel Eilat. Established in 2006 by violinist and conductor Leonid Rozenberg, who continues to serve as its artistic and general director, the festival, celebrating its tenth year, is one of Israel’s most prestigious, attracting both local- and overseas concert-goers interested in the best of chamber music. Most of the artists of the 2015 festival hail from Europe and the UK, with one Canadian; these musicians will be joined by a number of Israel’s finest musicians. Master classes will be held there for music performance undergraduates and graduates as of February 2nd.

With a rich variety of music and genres, early music aficionados will be well catered for. The Kölner Vokalsolisten (Cologne Vocal Soloists) will open the festival with “Carpe Noctem” (Seize the Night), a program of Renaissance-, Baroque music and more. As its title infers, the mood will be one of night, the glowing signature sound of these six singers lighting the audience through the many musical and poetic avenues of this ever-mysterious theme.

Those of us who heard the Accordone Ensemble at the Israel Festival some years back will be excited to hear that the group will be presenting two concerts at the upcoming Eilat Chamber Music Festival. Fired by their passion for pre-Bach music and original instruments, Guido Morini and Marco Beasley formed Accordone in 1984. In its fresh and informed approach to interpretation, and inspired by the values, poetics and skill of early musicians, the group focuses on Italian music for voice and continuo from the 16th and 17th centuries. With the attention the Accordone musicians give to theatrical elements, each concert is bound to be a dramatic and spirited experience. Performed by 10 members of the ensemble and joined by Italian folk dancer Silvia Pirone, “Storie di Napoli” will create a fresco of Neapolitan music from the 16th century to the present day. In “La Bella Noeva” festival-goers will hear music ranging from Gregorian chant to Monteverdi, from the tarantellas of Salento to music composed by Guido Morini himself. Singer and composer Marco Beasley is an artist of striking natural musicality and charisma.

In addition to concerts presenting some of the greatest works of Classical, Romantic and later chamber music repertoire, one very different and significant event will be the Israeli premiere of British composer (and rock musician) Julian Marshall’s 2009 chamber cantata “Out of the Darkness”, based on texts of the very great Jewish German poet Gertrud Kolmar, who perished in the Auschwitz Extermination Camp. This event will bring together the Kölner Vokalsolisten, conductor Ansgar Eimann, French ‘cellist François Salque, Israeli instrumentalists and Israeli sopranos Claire Meghnagi and Rosemarie Danziger. To let one’s hair down at a late-night jazz concert, “Brassfire” will feature the celebrated Canadian trumpeter Jens Lindemann, who will perform with three local jazz players. And to wind up the festival with excitement and passion, "Flamenco al Natural" will send festival-goers off home with a fill of color and emotion created by renowned Falemenco dancer Maria Juncal, performing with a large ensemble of musicians and dancers. Still, for those dominated by that constant hankering to hear more Renaissance and Baroque music, you will find some early music works interwoven into other programs: an interesting meeting of artists and cultures will be seen and heard "East and West", in which the Fitzwilliam Quartet (UK) will host local singer Mira Awad in a program of music rearranged for string quartet as well as Baroque music performed by Awad. Marin Marais’ Suite from “Alcione” will be played in “The Reign of the ‘Cello” (Camerata Geneva, David Greilsammer-conductor, Stephen Isserlis-‘cello), J.-P. Rameau’s Suite from “Platée” in “La Casa del Diavolo” (Geneva Camerata, David Greilsammer-conductor and pianist) and music of Bach in “Shem Tov Levi and a String Trio” - featuring Levi himself and some of his music.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and soloists perform A.Scarlatti's "Hagar and Ishmael"

In celebration of the very recent issue of its recording of A.Scarlatti’s oratorio “Hagar and Ishmael”, the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra performed the work at its recent concerts in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This writer attended the concert on December 29th 2014, at the Jerusalem International YMCA. Joining the string players of the JBO were soloists Avital Dery as Hagar, Tal Ganor – Ishmael, Keren Motseri – Sara, Yoav Weiss – Abraham and Adaya Peled as the Angel. Conducting the performance was the JBO’s founder and musical director David Shemer.

In his program notes, Shemer reminds us of Pope Innocent XI’s disapproval of opera in late 17th-century Rome, with opera-lovers shifting their attention to oratorio. Oratorios were usually performed as concerts, but, apart from that difference, artists really had enough freedom to satisfy the Roman aristocracy’s thirst for theatrical works. The subject of “Hagar and Ishmael” (1683) is the biblical story (Genesis, chapter 21) of Abraham, his wife Sara, her Egyptian slave Hagar and Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. Because Sara had not managed to become pregnant, Sara suggested that her husband have a child by Hagar. But when Sara unexpectedly fell pregnant, giving birth to Isaac, she became jealous of Abraham’s older son, persuading Abraham to exile Hagar and Ishmael. Giuseppe de Totis weaves a libretto presenting spousal manipulation, paternal guilt and filial despair. Scarlatti’s sensitive and expressive treatment of the libretto, adding moral implications to the story, cannot but lure the listener into the fraught situation, also due to the timeless human forces playing out in this set of relationships. Add to these elements graceful recitatives, arias fuelled by fury and fire and, then, tender, dark arias probing and describing sentiments arising from the deepest parts of the human soul. The somewhat otherworldly character of the angel, appearing to save young Ishmael, who is about to die of thirst in the desert and promising him a prestigious future, breaks the tension of what is to be a tragic outcome, bringing the oratorio to a positive, elated conclusion.

Constructed in two parts, this (opera pretending to be an) oratorio has no chorus, nor are there significant orchestral sections; arias are accompanied by continuo or by orchestra, there are smooth-flowing recitatives and occasional duets. The soloists in this JBO performance retained the work’s tension with convincing immediacy. Soprano Keren Motseri depicted Sara as both tender and loving and as an obstinate, domineering, strong-willed woman. A captivating singer utilizing her beauty of sound, intelligence, temperament and fine vocal skills, she is as comfortable on stage as she is managing melismatic, dramatic passages. As Abraham, bass Yoav Weiss gave the convincing and heartfelt performance of a man whose soul is tragically conflicted. With timbral warmth and sympathy, he conveyed the great sadness of the situation:
‘Who does not know what pain is
Knows still that pain which exceeds
All others, that in the middle of the heart
Hides always in silence…’
Accompanied by ‘cello (Orit Messer-Jacobi) and theorbo (Bari Moskovitz), this was a soul-searching moment where the audience might now start to ask itself where its allegiance lay. Avital Dery made for a superb Hagar: expressive, maternal, articulate, communicative and subtly dramatic, her well-rounded vocal sound reached out to the listener as she portrayed both the strength and the hopelessness of a mother in such a situation. These moments were all the more effective and moving with the dark timbre of lower strings:
‘The desire of a covetous heart
Has no limits or end.
Like a languishing soul in burning pain,
No abundance of fluid
Can extinguish the ceaseless craving
Of its impious thirst…’
Well suited to singing Baroque repertoire, soprano Tal Ganor displayed a deep understanding of the role of Ishmael. Never excessively dramatic or operatic, her depiction of the boy dying of thirst was understated yet profound, appealing and well within the boundaries of good taste. Unmannered and natural, her singing was expressive and superbly controlled. As the Angel, young soprano Adaya Peled created the effect of radiance and surprise to turn the plot around and pronounce that Ishmael had been “chosen by heaven
To propagate the empires of a vast people…” and that
“Violets bloom
After frost and cold”.

Here was an impressive home-grown line-up of soloists to join Maestro David Shemer and the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra in a sensitive and highly convincing reading of “Hagar and Ishmael”. The instrumental playing was excellent; kudos to the continuo players for their sympathetic accompaniments.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Gloriana Ensemble performs "Though Amaryllis Dance in Green" at St. Andrew's Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem

“Though Amaryllis Dance in Green”, the Gloriana Ensemble’s recent concert, took place on December 20th 2014 at St. Andrews Scots Memorial Church, Jerusalem. Established in 2010, the group today, consisting of five singers – Lucie Bloch-soprano, Noar Lee Naggan-countertenor, Hillel Sherman-tenor, Yoram Bar Akiva-baritone and Joel Sivan-bass - specializes in performing sacred and secular polyphonic music from the Renaissance and Baroque.
Apart from one Spanish- and two French pieces, the ensemble’s new program is made up of a-cappella works from England and Italy, the connection between the two briefly outlined by Hillel Sherman, who introduced works on the program, providing some background about each. When King Henry VIII sent his agents to Venice to engage for his court the best wind and viol players Europe had to offer, the stage was set for English music to be transformed. The music at Queen Elizabeth I’s court took Italian music to its heart, blending it with the inherited glories of earlier English music to produce one of the richest and most evocative repertoires in musical history.

Showing the genre’s sometime connection with Italy, the concert opened with the paradigm of the Renaissance English madrigal, Thomas Morley’s ebullient and effervescent ballett of 1596 “Now Is the Month of Maying” (based on a canzonet of Orazio Vecchi), the English spring freshness and humor of its words only marginally masking its risqué text. The Gloriana Ensemble’s flexible, bright and engaging singing of it promised an evening of pleasurable listening. In William Byrd’s “Is Love a Boy?” (1589), the text’s enigmatic and troubling questions came thick and fast from each voice, emerging with individuality and a sense of urgency, highlighted by Byrd’s sophisticated writing and a play of dynamics. The singers presented the dense contrapuntal texture of Byrd’s “Though Amaryllis Dance in Green”, from which the Gloriana Ensemble’s program takes its name, making incisive use of consonants Then, to one of the many vivid early English market-place street-sellers’ songs: to play out all the levels of meaning in John Dowland’s “Fine Knacks for Ladies” (1600), with its descriptive detail, its teasing syncopations and courtly puns, the singers gave much attention to each word, to timbral colors, to detached phrases as against more legato moments, finally leading to the song’s message – that love remains true in the heart more so than any pretty trinkets for sale. Performing these pieces depends greatly on fine diction and the flavor of British English; the Gloriana singers did not disappoint.

Still in the realm of secular music, but leaving England, we heard three light-hearted songs. In “Le Chant des Oiseaux” by Clement Janequin (c.1485-1568), one of Paris’s foremost chanson composers, the four men dealt admirably with the song’s tricky, onomatopoeic text, its comical patter and descriptive calls of thrushes, robins, nightingales and cuckoos. The singers then delivered an upbeat, witty reading of 16th century Spanish composer Juan del Encina’s “Cucu,cucu”, a song more about adultery than ornithology. In Pierre Passereau’s “Il est bel et bon”, in which two country women brag about their husbands, the singers combined the chanson’s grace and lightness with its hints of rustic directness and double entendres.

The young man singing to his lady-love in Orlando di Lasso’s “Matona mia cara” is a German, probably a soldier; the song, a parody of how Germans spoke in broken Italian, With much animation, the singers conveyed the young man’s infatuation and the lack of subtlety of his intentions! Even more curious is “Allala pia calia”, one of six “moresches” composed by Lasso in a dialect influenced by Moors living in Renaissance Italy. Enjoying the theatrical antics of this flamboyant, unabashedly bawdy villanella, the Gloriana singers took on board its rhythmic and syllabic effects, allowing for an imaginative and richly dynamic performance.
The program presented a number of sacred works. In Orlando di Lasso’s luminous motet “Justorum Animae”, the singers presented the piece’s rich texture, its unique tenderness and hope. Lasso’s curious motet “Super Flumina Babylonis” Psalm 136 (137), speaking of the Hebrews in captivity in Babylon, saw the singers lending whimsy to the game Lasso plays with syllables and the comical spelling out of letters and words in his strange form of humor. A pivotal work in sacred section of the program was (some of) Venetian composer Giovanni Croce’s “Nove Lamentatione”, a lofty, spiritual piece sung to texts from the Book of Lamentations. In the program notes, Dr. Alon Schab (Haifa University) wrote about this mysteriously unknown work, whose original parts are in the Münster Regional Ecumenical Library (Germany). With Hillel Sherman reading the text of each section, the male singers, conducted by Joel Sivan, took listeners into the pious and mournful mood of Lamentations, allowing time to place phrases strategically, these phrase endings carefully shaped. On a lighter note, the quintet performed Mantuan Jewish violinist and composer Salamone Rossi’s “Hallelujah” (Psalm 146) from the composer’s 1622 groundbreaking collection of Hebrew motets, always a crowd-pleaser and for good reasons!

William Byrd’s wonderfully contemplative and stately “Confirma Hoc Deus” boasts two superb soprano magical parts, here, not entirely matched in timbre by Noar Lee Naggan’s reedy countertenor sound and Lucie Bloch’s delicate, slimmer soprano voice. This was followed by Thomas Tallis’ small anthem “O Nata Lux”, suitably bathed in “light”, its homophonic texture colored with cross-rhythms harmonic dicords to evoke the suffering conveyed in its text.

With a new line-up of singers, Ensemble Gloriana has much to offer its audience in the way of polished, well-informed performance, fine intonation, excellent diction and interesting repertoire. Some singers are more communicative with the audience than others. Pieces conducted by Joel Sivan fared better than those not; his warm, blending voice provides the ideal bass line for Renaissance and Baroque music. Noar Lee Naggan's sturdy countertenor voice adds body to the general sound Lucie Bloch’s creamy, delicate voice and Noar Lee Naggan’s pithy vocal timbre do not always find a meeting point. But the group's performance is stylish, delving into the profound and spiritual mood of scacred music and reaching out generously to the insouciance inherent in secular vocal repertoire of the time.

Friday, December 19, 2014

In "Owlos on Strings", the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra is joined by the New Israeli Recorder Quartet

Baroque oboist Bruce Haynes
For “Owlos on Strings”, the second subscription concert of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s 2014-2015 season, on December 4th 2014 at the Jerusalem International YMCA, the JBO took its audience on a different musical journey –a Baroque musical journey, but one of a different kind. Directed by its founder and musical director David Shemer, the string section of the JBO was joined by the Owlos Recorder Quartet – Drora Bruck, Alon Schab, Idit Paz and Idit Shemer. Established in 2012, the New Israel Recorder Quartet performs in concerts and festivals; the ensemble is presently working on locating Israeli works rarely or not performed by professional musicians, and bringing them back to the public’s attention in the concert hall and on recordings.

Several of the works on the program were antiphonal, a style originating in Venice, in which separate choirs (vocal or instrumental) were placed in different parts of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice, for which composers wrote in a polychoral style evoking imitative and echoing effects. Such was Canzon XXXI à 8 of the (almost anonymous) early 17th century Italian composer Sabastiano Chilese, who flourished in Venice around 1608, with the two mixed instrumental “choirs” placed on either side of the stage. This was followed by two pieces by one of the greatest representatives of the Venetian School and principal organist of St. Mark’s Basilica, Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612). Both works come from a collection from 1608. Performed on strings and harpsichord, with violinist Noam Schuss’s ever secure and richly-fashioned leading, Canzon Prima “La Spiritata” à 4 was given a mellifluous and poetic reading, its fluid sections well contrasted in keeping with the composer’s interest in dynamics. With Canzon “Vigesimaottava” à 8, we were back to antiphonal music, this time with one choir of strings and the second of recorders, in playing that was fresh and indicative of G.Gabrieli’s rhythmically daring originality.

The works of Massimiliano Neri (c.1623-1673), an organist in Venetian churches, one of them being the Basilica of San Marco, represent an attempt to merge the Gabrieli tradition with the “stile moderno”. In the double-choir Sonata decima à 8, Neri’s scoring calls for a first choir of three violins and theorbo and a second choir of three recorders and theorbo. Apart from presenting different instrumental combinations, the first movement of the work boasted some highly attractive solos and duets, played without interruption –violin (Noam Schuss), harpsichord (David Shemer) together with theorbo (Eliav Lavi), ‘cello (Orit Messer-Jacobi) and more.

With the rich scoring of Bohemian-Austrian composer and violinist Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s (1644-1704) Sonata pro Tabula à 10, here was dinner music for a sumptuous feast in 17th century northern Europe, a work abounding in colorful folk music associations assimilated into a sonata with suite elements. Remaining in the same region, we heard Concerto in C major, one of German composer and theorist Johann David Heinichen’s (1683-1729) Dresden Concerti. From the vivacity and variety in this work of the “Gruppenkonzert” (group concerto) genre common to the region, the style employing a variety of solo instruments, much instrumental color and alternating “choirs”, one must suppose that the Dresden court orchestra was an excellent ensemble of players. The JBO string players and their Owlos guests entertained the audience well with this music, which is joyful and elaborate, also elegant, and light without being banal, the predilection for wind instruments at the Dresden court adding the sweetness and virtuosity of the flauto dolce to the orchestral timbre of a composer fairly obscure till recent times.

Continuing the series of Baroque oboist Bruce Haines’ New Brandenburg Concertos, six concertos made up mostly of movements from J.S.Bach cantatas, and numbered from seven to twelve, the JBO performed No. 10 in D minor. The idea for these works was based on the fact that Bach himself was a champion recycler and that the original Brandenburgs are, in fact, merely a part of the composer’s large corpus of instrumental music written for the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig, some of which is probably lost. Haynes’ works adhere to Bach’s variety of scoring: as are the original Brandenburg Concertos each colored with different instrumentations, so are those of Haynes. With Haynes’ Concerto no.10 in D minor calling for a number of wind instruments, the Owlos recorder players were in the right place at the right time. For this work we were presented with one choir of recorders and one of strings, with much civilized chamber-music-like conversation held between them and some superbly polished solo-playing on the part of ‘cellist Orit Messer-Jacobi. If Haynes’ arrangements were referred to by him as “speculative trials”, these appealing pieces have set JBO audiences thinking, disgussing and weighing up opinions…also ready in anticipation for the next.

With a change of atmosphere, we heard violinists Noam Schuss, Rephael Negri, Dafna Ravid and Nahara Carmel performing G.Ph.Telemann’s Concerto à 4 Violini in G major TWV 40:201, one of Telemann’s very many chamber works, 80 or so being composed without basso continuo, of which three were for four violins, written possibly to provide court-employed violinists with some challenging but enjoyable drill and in which the composer may very well have played. Concise and concentrated, the G major Concerto, offering moments to remind the listener that this was indeed a program built around antiphonal music, was a highlight of the evening. In playing that was subtle, personal and profound, the four players showed the listener through Telemann’s score of rich, moving harmonies, his daring use of dissonances, motifs of sharp profile, fugal ideas, folk idiom and humor, as they concluded it with a Vivace movement of jolly fanfares.

The evening’s program ended back in Italy, where it had begun, with Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Concerto in due Cori con flauti obbligati, RV 585 (c.1708), a work for solo violin (Noam Schuss) and antiphonal orchestra, with each of the “due cori” consisting of two violins and two recorders, the second also including keyboard. This would probably have been performed by the orphaned girls of the Ospedale della Pieta, who, it should be known, played not only violin but recorders, and, in fact, a host of other instruments. Vivaldi’s employment there as music master inspired him to explore the many possibilities inherent in the concerto, heard here in imaginative textural combinations of instrumental sonorities, his writing for violas (Daniel Tanchelson, Tami Borenstein) forming a formidable textural and flexible element. In this concert, the recorders function as orchestral instruments. In the solo violin role, Noam Schuss gave an outstandingly gripping solo performance once again, the work also peppered with such treats as an intricate harpsichord solo (David Shemer) and a touching violin duet for violin and theorbo (Schuss, Lavi).

Audiences showed much interest in this unique concert, enjoying the high quality playing of four of Israel's finest recorder players with the JBO's suave string orchestra, stepping out of the realm of mainstream Baroque concert repertoire performed in this country to be rewarded with a fresh, new listening experience.

The Mendi Rodan Symphony Orchestra of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance opens the 2014-2015 season

The Mendi Rodan Symphony Orchestra of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, under the
'Cellist Michal Korman
baton of its musical director Professor Eitan Globerson, will open its 2014-2015 concert season in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem International YMCA at 20:00, December 22nd 2014. In 2012, the orchestra was named in memory of Professor Mendi Rodan, the Israel Prize laureate for music in 2006, who taught conducting at the Academy from 1962 and was Head of the institution between 1965 and 1994. He conducted many important orchestras in Israel and overseas. Born in Romania in 1924, Mendi Rodan became the first violinist of the National Orchestra of Romania at age 16 and its conductor at age 24. The result of his applying for a permit to immigrate to Israel in 1954 resulted in the termination of his job with the orchestra. In 1960, he arrived in Israel with his family. He was principal conductor and music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 1963 to 1972. Maestro Rodan died in 2009. Maestro Zubin Mehta has referred to him as a “musician of giant stature…and a unique and talented conductor.”

Members of the Mendi Rodan Symphony Orchestra are students of the Academy’s Faculty of Performing Arts; they are required audition in order to join the orchestra. Participating in the Mendi Rodan Orchestra offers the students the chance to become familiar with orchestral repertoire, thus paving the way towards becoming professional orchestral players. The orchestra performs major works of orchestra repertoire, its rehearsal program beginning with intensive and detailed work with sectional instructors prior to rehearsals of the full orchestra.

Works to be performed at the concert on December 22nd are the Overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Traviata”, Johannes Brahms’ Symphony no.1 and Edward Elgar’s Concerto for ‘Cello in E minor opus 86, soloist: Michal Korman. Born in Jerusalem, Michal Korman studied at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music (Tel Aviv) and at the Juilliard School (USA). An avid chamber musician, Ms. Korman is a founding member of the Israel Chamber Project. She performs widely as a soloist and ensemble musician.

Tickets: 054-9293405,
Information: 052-7030504