Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sergei Stadler conducts and solos at the Augusta Victoria Church (Jerusalem)

A noon concert of works by Haydn, Schubert and Mozart took place May 1st 2010 at the Augusta Victoria Church (Jerusalem), under the auspices of Pearls of Classical Music ( . Sergei Stadler, both conductor and solo violinist, directed the Jerusalem Festival Orchestra and the Kfar Saba Chamber Choir (musical director Aharon Harlap). Soloists in the Mozart Requiem were soprano Maria Yoffe, mezzo-soprano Galina Malinsky, tenor Yotam Cohen and bass Natanel Zalevsky.

One of Russia’s most illustrious musicians, violinist and conductor Sergei Stadler (b. St Petersburg 1962), a graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatory and the Moscow Conservatory, conducts and performs widely and has recorded many discs. The recipient of several prizes, he teaches master classes and produces operas. He was the driving force behind the “Music in the Hermitage Halls” project.

The Kfar Saba Chamber Choir –an ensemble of some 40 singers - was established in 1986 and functions under the auspices of the town’s Department of Culture. Composer and conductor Aharon Harlap took over as musical director in 1997. The choir has a busy performing schedule, records and has had concert tours in Europe.

Located on the northern side of the Mount of Olives, the Augusta Victoria Hospital and
Church, named after Empress Augusta Victoria - wife of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, were built from 1907 to 1910. The church, designed in the grand taste of German architect Robert Leibnitz, is characterized by its 60 meter high bell-tower, and was named the “Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension”. The interior of the church is rich in interest, providing an attractive venue for concerts, its lively acoustic an added advantage.

The concert opened with Joseph Haydn’s (1732-1809) Violin Concerto in G major Hob. VIIa:4 (c.1769). Haydn has been credited with four violin concertos, three of which have survived. Some musicologists have expressed doubt as to whether the G major concerto was composed by him or not, although the Finale:Allegro, one of unadulterated joy, is most typical of Haydn. Sergei Stadler’s reading of the work was measured and deeply rooted in the Classical manner, his tempi moderate, his performance of the demanding violin solo sincere and articulate. Much of his direction of the Jerusalem Festival Orchestra of ten string-players and harpsichord was simply through eye contact.

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote no concertos. In the concerted genre, he did, however, compose the Concert Piece for Violin and Orchestra D.345 and his Rondo for String Orchestra. D.438 (1816). We heard Stadler and the Jerusalem Festival Orchestra in the latter. An extended rondo, comprising of three themes, it is a small masterpiece. Stadler’s clean, steady playing and direction stay clear of showy concert-piece mannerisms. He guides his listeners through the episodes, key- and mood changes, illuminating the text with clarity and brilliant, clean passagework.

The concert ended with an uplifting performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) Requiem Mass in D minor K.626 (1791). With the orchestra providing much variety of timbre – woodwind playing was especially pleasing – the Kfar Saba Chamber Choir’s fine group of singers was responsive, confident and expressive, aware of dynamic changes, their singing of vocal lines leaning into the focal point of the musical phrase. Stadler and his musicians kept the work’s emotional tension running through the work right to the end, bringing out its underlying emotional struggle, its drama its pathos and its compassion. Soprano Maria Yoffe’s sensitive, well-chiseled phrasing and creamy voice and mezzo-soprano Galina Malinsky’s lush, fruity tone rang through the church. Yotam Cohen’s silvery, powerful and penetrating tenor sound is always distinctive. Young bass Netanel Zalevsky’s upper range boasts an interesting and rich mix of colors. A frequently performed work, Mozart’s Requiem is an inspiring work for performers and audiences and this was no exception!

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