Friday, June 18, 2010

The Perlman Music Program's 2010 Jerusalem workshop for outstanding young string players in collaboration with the Israel Festival

The Perlman Music Program, directed by Mrs. Toby Perlman and co-chaired by Maestro Itzhak Perlman, was founded by Toby Perlman in 1993. Based in New York City and Shelter Island, NY, the PMP conducted a two-and-a half week residency in Jerusalem May 20th to June 6th headed by Itzhak and Toby Perlman and joined by an international faculty, some teachers and students coming from the USA, with some students and faculty being from the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music (Tel Aviv) and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. Many of the Israeli students taking part are recipients of America-Israel Foundation scholarships, graduates of the Outstanding Musicians Program of the Jerusalem Music Centre and participants in the Outstanding Musicians Program of the Israel Defense Forces Education Corps. Of the 42 young string players taking part in the workshop, half were PMP alumni from around the world. A long list of Israeli and American donors and supporters made the 2010 Jerusalem PMP workshop a reality.

The students’ daily program consisted of orchestral playing under the baton of Maestro Perlman, chamber music sessions, the opportunity to play classical Arabic ensemble music, individual lessons with faculty members, choral singing (students singing together with faculty) and performance. The chamber music repertoire chosen for the workshop was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 18 quartets; alongside the chamber music coaches, the Ariel Quartet, its players graduates of PMP and the JMC Outstanding Musicians Programs, was chosen to be the quartet in residence in the 2010 Jerusalem PMP. When not busy with music, participants were taken on sight-seeing trips around Israel.

The Gala Concert of the 2010 Jerusalem PMP took place June 3rd in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre. Mrs. Toby Perlman spoke of the PMP representing the realization of her dream of providing outstanding young musicians with a nurturing and supportive learning environment in an atmosphere suitable and comfortable to young people. Hed Sella, director of the Jerusalem Music Centre, expressed how happy and excited the JMC was to host the first Jerusalem PMP program and thanked the Perlmans for the wonderful experience. Jerusalem mayor, Nir Barkat, also thanked the Perlmans for bringing the program to Jerusalem, adding that such events deepen and widen Jerusalem’s artistic- and cultural life. Barkat’s wish is that the program now be an annual event in Jerusalem.

The JMC’s Outstanding Musicians Program seeks to cultivate cultural diversity and places high value on Arabic music, offering its young players the opportunity to experience it at first hand. Toby Perlman talked about the PMP’s approach of “investigating” music, hence a series of lessons in classical Arabic music in the workshop in which participants played and improvised along with four of the outstanding musicians from the JMC’s program – violinist Firas Esami, percussionist Rami Anton, qanun player Osama Shahouk and oud player Thaer Bader. The evening’s program opened with two short classical Arabic pieces, played on bowed instruments, qanun, oud and tambourine, conducted by Professor Taiseer Elias of the faculty of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Bar Ilan University and the musical director and conductor of the Youth Orchestra of Classical Arabic Music. The first piece performed, “Samai Shad Araban” (the samai is a composed genre consisting of four sections, each followed by a refrain) by Turkish virtuoso and composer Cemil Bey Tanburi (1873-1916), an arrangement created for the ensemble, was expressive and elegant, fine details addressed, each phrase finely chiseled. “Dhikrayati” (My Memories) by Egyptian oud player and composer Muhamad Al Qasabji (1892-1966), an evocative piece of temperament, contrasting bowed with plucked textures, lyrical- with intense moments and solo- with tutti sections, offered the audience a chance to hear delicate, intricate solos on oud (Bader), qanun (Shahouk) and violin (Firas).

The Perlman Music Program believes that the skills needed for singing relate directly to those demanded in instrumental playing and that non-trained singers can benefit from and enjoy being in a choir. All students and staff took part in a daily choral session run by tenor and choral conductor Patrick Romano, choral director of the PMP, of the Julliard School Pre-College Division and choral director and faculty member of Sarah Lawrence College. Romano and his choir performed a number of works by Johannes Brahms accompanied by faculty pianists Yi-Fang Huang and John Root. Two pieces from Brahms’ Requiem and three from the Liebeslieder Waltzes were given a detailed reading, attention given to diction, contrast, color and expression. In “Songbird” from the Liebeslieder cycle, Romano took the solo part, his rich, warm timbre and vocal presence indeed pleasurable.

The third part of the evening’s concert was devoted to performance of the students’ string orchestra, conducted by Itzhak Perlman. It began with W.A.Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C minor, K.546. Mozart’s exposure to the Bach fugues had had a profound influence on him. The fugue was originally composed for two pianos but Mozart arranged it for strings in 1788. Youthful energy and articulate, competent string playing made for a polished performance of this small but profound gem.

Composer and ethnomusicologist, Professor Andre Hajdu (b. Hungary 1932, in Israel from 1966) composed his Divertimento for Strings in 1988. Opening with the fresh, light and positive Allegretto precisioso and closing with the highly tonal, strongly profiled Finale-Vivo, the work presents a variety of moods, styles and modes, creating a musical canvas of humor, nostalgia, personal expression and, as in the fourth movement, reference to folk melodies, as well as offering small solos throughout. A lesson in miniatures, this attractive work gave the young string players a glimpse into Israeli music and was handled gracefully by Perlman and his players. Professor Hajdu was present at the performance.

The evening’s musical program ended with Antonin Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings in E major opus 22 (1875). Bringing out the hearty, positive and songful character of the work, its freshness and old-world naivete, with its blend of classical- and folk harmony, the young players’ performance was lush in sound, delicate and sympathetic, wistful at times, full and carefree at others. Perlman had his players changing places between each movement – a little disturbing to the audience, but of advantage to the orchestral experience of the students. The maestro is warm and informal with them, his direction giving expression to individual voices together with a richly blended and satisfying string sound. It was an evening sparkling with zest and fine musicianship, with enthusiasm and joy. The Jerusalem audience showed interest in hearing the 42 aspiring young string players in concert.

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