Saturday, January 3, 2009

Alon Sariel - mandolin artist. Aviv Competitions 2009

Young as he is, Alon Sariel, born in Israel in 1986, is a mandolin artist with an outstanding record of solo- and chamber music performance of both western and eastern music. I was present at a recital he gave at the Jerusalem Music Centre in the first stage of the 2009 Aviv Competitions, the Israeli Competitions for Young Musicians.

The recital opened with two movements from J.S.Bach’s (1685-1750) Sonata no.2 for Solo Violin in A minor, BWV 1003. Composed in 1720 when Bach was in Coethen, the six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin have been both transcribed and orchestrated and have been performed variously on piano, harpsichord, viola, -cello, guitar, banjo, lute and marimba, to mention a few. Sariel performed it on a Brescian mandolin, a 4-stringed instrument tuned the same as the violin. In the Andante, Sariel gave the delicate melodic line expression, time to breathe and some rhythmic flexibility. The Allegro was energetic, with emphasis on voice-play, chromatics and harmonic tension.

Playing on the same Brescian mandolin, Sariel continued his recital with Sonata no.1 for Mandolin and Continuo in A major (composer unknown). At the harpsichord was Zohar Sheffi. There had been no time for the two artists to rehearse, but, nevertheless, we were treated to a competent and enjoyable performance, whereby slow movements were ornamented and rich in feeling and fast movements boasted youthful joy and energy and fine technique.

Next on the program was a Pavan by Alfonso Ferrabosco I (1543-1588). Sariel played this piece on the archlute, a lute with an extended neck and 13 or 14 single or double courses of strings, popular in both Italy and England during the Renaissance. Sariel captured his audience in an interpretation into which he wove harmonic interest, a richness of ideas and much elegant ornamentation.

The recital ended with “Two Episodes for Solo Mandolin”, composed in 2008 by Gilad Hochman (b.1982, Israel), and dedicated to Alon Sariel. For this work, Sariel played a modern mandolin built by Arik Kerman (Israel.) In the first piece, “Into a Dream”, a collage of temperaments and textures, Sariel takes his listener into the fractured nature of the dream world, sketching a suggestive canvas of effects where melodic ideas appear and fade. His playing was free and spontaneous, but clearly planned out in his mind. “Under Torn Skies” opened in a strident, dissonant manner, its blatant message intense but punctuated with pianissimo moments, a concentrated and technically demanding movement, handled convincingly by Sariel.

This was a fine opportunity to hear different styles at the hand of this gifted young artist. Sariel’s choice of repertoire was attractive and varied. Following this recital, the artist progressed to the second stage of the competition, winning the audience prize (donated by Meira Gera.) Next week, Alon will be joining the West Eastern Divan Orchestra to celebrate ten years of its existence with a concert tour that will take them to Moscow, Vienna and Milan.

Alon Sariel-mandolin and lute
Aviv Competitions 2009
The Jerusalem Music Centre
December 28, 2008


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