Monday, January 18, 2010

The Israel Camerata Jerusalem in the hands of The New Generation

The Israel Camerata Jerusalem presented “The New Generation”, an especially interesting concert in its Instrumental Plus Series at the Henry Crown Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre January 11th 2010. Conductor was Yoel Gamzou, with solo violinist Min-Jin Kym and Marianne Eva Lecler (harp).

American-Israeli conductor Yoel H. Gamzou (b.1981, USA) received his musical education at the Catherine Lewis Conservatory (Tel Aviv) and Tel Aviv University, going on to study in New York, Paris and Milan, distinguishing himself as a Mahler specialist. He directs the International Mahler Orchestra (London), which he founded. Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) Adagietto for strings and harp, the fourth of five movements from Symphony no.5 in C sharp minor, is frequently performed as a separate piece. Composed in 1902, the piece may have been sent to Mahler’s future wife, Alma, as a gesture of love. Gamzou, conducting without a baton, gave it a lush, fragile reading, his pianissimi breathtaking in their control and beauty. Floating the sound, Gamzou takes leave of the bar-line to weave the emotional intensity into uninterrupted melodic lines. French harp player Marianne Eva Lecler, a member of the IMO, added sparkle to the performance.

Russian pianist, conductor and composer Anton Arensky’s (1861-1906) Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky for String Orchestra, opus 35a, began as the slow movement of his String Quartet no.2 opus 35 (1894.) Tchaikovsky died in 1893; his lyrical style of writing had been a strong influence on Arensky’s composition and the movement was dedicated to his mentor’s memory. The variation theme comes from Tchaikovsky’s children’s song “A Legend”. Arensky transcribed the movement for string orchestra in 1894. Gamzou, attentive to the most delicate details of voicing and expression changes, weaves the piece from many singing, fluid melodic strands, sweeping his audience from one variation into the next. He achieves an unusually pure quality of string sound.

W.A.Mozart’s Concerto no. 2 for Violin and Orchestra K211, one of five composed between April and December of 1775, at a time the 19-year-old composer was concertmaster of the Archbishop’s court orchestra in Salzburg. Mozart, himself, was a brilliant violinist and it is supposed he would have played the solo role. Korean-born violinist Min-Jin Kim (b.1978), a performer with a busy international schedule, gave a well thought-out reading of this work. In keeping with the work’s late Baroque references, she integrated her solo sections sympathetically into the orchestral ensemble, never tempted to take on a showy approach for this non-dramatic piece. Her emphasis lay in presenting Mozart’s myriad of melodies, some of them suggesting folk dances. In the Andante movement, balance, strategic pacing and a sense of well-being pervaded. Min-Jin Kim’s performance was polished, secure and intelligent. Her collaboration with Gamzou produced a Mozart performance of superbly good taste.

The concert ended with Carl Maria von Weber’s (1786-1826) Symphony no. 1 in C major, opus 19 (1806-1807). This symphony and his second, which followed soon after (Weber composed only two symphonies) were written when Weber was in the employ of Duke Eugen Friedrich Heinrich von Wurttemberg. It seems there were no clarinets at his disposal, an instrument so prominent in so many of the composer’s other works, but it is known that the duke himself played the oboe. Gamzou introduces the opening movement – Allegro con fuoco – with a burst of energy. Constructed of varied, short ideas, each of them is addressed by the conductor, each solo sounding in turn. The orchestra’s playing abounded with beautifully shaped phrases and charm. Gamzou reads a score through his senses, as a sound painter, whose orchestral palette offers many colors and dynamic choices. His conducting language is detailed and energetic. His music-making is refreshing and communicative. The New Generation has much to say. Let’s hear more!

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