Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra - All Rameau concert

The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s fourth concert of the current season consisted of music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), one of the most important French composers and theorists of the Baroque era. Rameau’s works can be divided into four distinct groups: a few cantatas, a few motets for chorus, pieces for harpsichord or harpsichord accompanied by other instruments and, finally, works for the stage to which he dedicated the last 30 years of his professional life. The JBO, conducted by its honorary conductor Andrew Parrott (UK) – performed a representative selection of Rameau’s works. The orchestra’s musical director, Dr David Shemer, was at the harpsichord. Joining them were solo singers, solo instrumentalists from the orchestra and the Adi Young Israeli Choir, which is directed by Yishai Steckler.

The concert opened with the Suite from the heroic Ballet “Zais”. In France, there was much emphasis on dance in theatrical music, as was in the social life of the aristocracy. The Overture included interesting instrumental effects representing the four elements. This was followed by a number of short dance movements. Each was different in character: the Sarabande was touching and delicate with beautifully-shaped phrases played on flutes by Boaz Berney and Kimberley Reine, the Minuets elegant and tranquil, the Air des Bergers (Shepherds’ Air) heavier and folksy.

We then heard the Grand Motet “In Convertendo” to the text of Psalm 126:
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
Then we thought we were dreaming”.
This religious work boasts rich harmonic color, melodic beauty and expressiveness. Israeli soprano Efrat Carmoush sang the opening recitative with much delicacy, in keeping with the fragile orchestral texture. Ye’ela Avital, also not new to the JBO series, gave much attention to phrasing and expression. Her duet with Christian Immler was lyrical. Immler performs widely and teaches at the Leeds College of Music (UK). His performance is always engaging, his bass range rich in the lower register and bright in the higher range. Countertenor Zvi Netanel (b. 1976, Israel) performs as a soloist in opera, recitals and sings in vocal ensembles. The “Adi” Young Israeli Choir, founded in 2006 by Yishai Steckler, includes 35 young, professionally-trained singers and performs a wide repertoire of works from Renaissance music to contemporary, much a cappella (voices alone) material, as well as new Israeli works. Steckler’s work focuses on musical detail and blending and it quickly becomes clear that his choir has made a close study of the verbal text. Choral sections had color and immediacy of sound, were well coordinated and rich in dynamics.

In 1741, Rameau published his “Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts”, his only chamber music collection. All these works present the harpsichord as prominent and make stringent demands on the player’s technical and musical ability. As in much French Baroque music, the movements have extra-musical titles, suggesting names of people or places. Joining Shemer were Noam Schuss (violin) and Kimberly Reine (Baroque flute). For those who love the elegance and nobility of Baroque music, this work, with its lilting lines, delicacy and complex counterpoint, was pure delight.

Benny Hendel - actor, translator, interviewer and cantor – presents interesting information about composers and works at JBO concerts. With few words and much wit, in his eloquent manner familiar to so many of us, Hendel makes each concert more meaningful to the audience. In his explanation of the plot in Rameau’s “Anacreon” (1757), a Ballet in one act, we learn of an argument over the relative merits of wine, symbolized by Bacchus, and those of Love. The maenads, followers of Bacchus, claim the two are incompatible and threaten the poet Anacreon, who holds the contrary view. The quarrel is resolved by L’Amour (Cupid.) “Anacreon” offers much fine instrumental music, choral sections and vocal solos. Berney and Reine played Baroque traverse piccolos, introducing them to the Israeli concert audience for the first time. Both the piccolos and traverse flutes they played were built by Berney. Immler’s performance was outstanding in its drama and emotional depth.

The JBO’s Rameau concert was rich in interest and variety, presenting French Baroque music to delight the most discerning of music-lovers. Kudos to Steckler on the superb performance and fresh, young sound of his “Adi” choir. Andrew Parrott’s conducting inspires and produces exciting results. There was magic in the air.

“Jean-Philippe Rameau – the Height of French Music”
The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra in cooperation with the Jerusalem Music Centre
David Shemer-harpsichord
Andrew Parrott-conductor
Ye’ela Avital-soprano
Efrat Carmoush-soprano
Zvi Netanel-countertenor
Christian Immler (Germany/UK)-bass
Kimberly Reine-flute
Noam Schuss-violin
“Adi” Young Israeli Choir – Yishay Steckler-conductor
Concert presented by Benny Hendel
The Jerusalem YMCA, King David St.,
February 20, 2008.

No comments: