Sunday, September 20, 2009

East Meets West at the Jerusalem Music Centre

“East Meets West”, a concert in honor of Mr. Aleksander Gudzowaty and the guests of the Annual Interfaith Tolerance Symposium, took place at the Jerusalem Music Centre, Mishkenot Sha’ananim Tuesday September 15th 2009.

Hed Sella, the JMC’s executive director, welcomed those present. He emphasized the appropriateness in concluding an interesting day of discussion on interfaith tolerance with music, that music promoted tolerance, with the convergence of voices, each independent but together forming harmony. Sella talked of the task of putting together a musical program of interfaith- and intercultural content in which we were to hear the music of Felix Mendelssohn, a 19th century European composer, followed by Arabic classical music performed by Jewish- and Arabic musicians playing together.

Mrs. Ruth Cheshin, president of the Jerusalem Foundation and a member of the board of directors of the JMC, welcomed Polish businessman Mr. Aleksander Gudzowaty and proceeded to talk about the importance of such a meeting for the city of Jerusalem and the fact that the JMC was a cultural bridge of understanding. She went on to say that the Jerusalem Foundation honored the values and ideals taken upon participants of the symposium, that these values constitute our common dream.

The program opened with Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) String Quartet in F minor opus 80, performed by the illustrious Carmel Quartet – violinists Lia Raikhlin and Rachel Ringelstein, violist Yoel Greenberg and ‘cellist Tami Waterman. Established in 1999, the quartet performs widely and is the recipient of prestigious prizes. The Carmel Quartet presents a yearly series of explained concerts at the JMC. The F minor String Quartet, composed in 1847, is, indeed, Mendelssohn’s last major work. Different in character to the genial atmosphere of many of the composer’s previous works, it reflects the “most intense emptiness and barrenness in the mind and heart” on the death of his sister, Fanny. The Carmel Quartet gave expression to this emotional angst from the outset, where tremolos set the bleak scene. Playing was articulate, with jagged entries introducing clean melodic strands. In the second movement – Allegro assai – fraught with syncopations, the artists demonstrated the uncompromising nature and darkness of textures in tense and mysterious moments. The third movement shed a more lyrical, positive light, with the players using dynamic change with daring to create contrast and moments of poetic beauty. In the virtuosic fourth movement, the quartet presented the richly textured and layered canvas with each gesture addressed articulately, the second subject suggesting charm and hope. This was a profound and detailed performance and a treat to those who appreciate fine chamber music.

Ensemble Mactub – Hillel Amsallem-percussion, Jacob Reuven-mandolin, Elias Wakileh-oud and Hagai Bilitzky-double bass – performed a number of classical Arabic and Middle-eastern pieces in different maqams (the melodic modes used in Arabic music.) Opening with a Longa in the Nahawind maqam, the pieces evoked the inebriating fragrances of the Middle East. Played with precision, flexibility, understatement and delicacy, each one was thoroughly worked, yet leaving room for spontaneity. All four artists are outstanding, they watch each other and communicate, they entertain with intricate, virtuosic solos, expressing the joy of music-making, never overstepping the bounds of good taste…and the audience loved it.

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