Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maestro Leon Botstein conducts the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in the 2011 Independence Eve concert

A large audience filled the Henry Crown Auditorium (Jerusalem Theatre) to attend the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s special festive concert for the Independence Eve May 9th 2011 under the baton of Maestro Leon Botstein, Conductor Laureate of the JSO.

The program opened with Marc Lavry’s (1903-1967) symphonic poem “Emek” (Valley) opus 45. Born (Marc Levin) in Riga, Latvia, he settled in Palestine in 1935. His oeuvre is very large, consisting of operas, symphonies, chamber music and popular songs, several of which have yet to be published. Lavry loved the history, poetry and heritage of his new country and was especially impressed with its landscape, the latter serving as the inspiration for several of his works. He is considered to be one of the most important composers active in the formulating of “Israeli Music”. Based on a song of the same name written in 1935 by Rafael Eliaz, “Emek” (1937) was inspired by the pioneer workers of the Jezreel Valley who toiled to drain the swamps in the daytime, in the evening taking time to sing and dance. It remains one of the most frequently performed Israeli works. A festive work to open Israel’s 63rd Independence Day, it bristles with a sense of the landscape Lavry is describing, with Israeli melodies, dance rhythms and pride. A tonal, forthright work, peppered with charming solos, Botstein’s extended orchestra made for a large and colorful orchestral soundscape.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) composed his Concerto in D minor for Piano, no.3 opus 30, premiering it as soloist on his first tour of the USA in 1909, a tour rendering him popular there prior to his emigration to New York in 1917. We heard the solo in the hands of young Boris Giltburg. Born 1984 in Moscow, but living in Tel Aviv since early childhood, he is the recipient of numerous international prizes, his a busy performing schedule taking him to the UK, Europe, Hong Kong and Japan. From the thoughtful opening theme, which the composer said “simply wrote itself”, Giltburg’s penchant for Rachmaninoff was clear as he followed the composer’s thread of ideas – full-blown lyricism, bursts of joy quickly melting into fragile moments, darker moments, breathtaking presto runs presented with clear outlines and clean, detailed pedaling. The challenges of the extended cadenza of the first movement, a dazzling piece of pianistic writing, were met with aplomb. Giltburg does not indulge in the showy “fireworks” heard by some pianists in some interpretations of the piano solo; totally in control, he delves into the meaning of the score. Not merely orchestra and soloist, Giltburg and Botstein together weave orchestral- and piano lines into a multifaceted yet integrated whole, the JSO’s sound rich, warm and blended.

For an encore, Boris Giltburg played Rachmaninoff’s highly pianistic setting of Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesleid” (Love’s grief) in a sensitive, delicate manner, using his agility and lightness of touch to bring out the piece’s charm and intimacy that meet the listener’s ears with a touch of kindly humor. This was surely one of the high points of the evening.

The concert ended with Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) Symphony no.1 in C minor, opus 68. The composer made his first sketches for the work in 1854. Burdened by the challenge of writing a work that would live up to his own high expectations and those of his audiences and a work worthy of honoring Beethoven’s memory, Brahms wrote “You have no idea how it is for the likes of us to feel the tread of a giant like him behind us”. The symphony, premiered in 1876, was well received and even called “Beethoven’s Tenth” by some critics. As in Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Brahms’ 1st begins in C minor, ending in the positive mode of C major. Botstein sets before his audience the broad canvas of this work, the first movement weighty in its message of mental conflict and hope. Botstein did not use a baton to conduct the second movement – Un poco allegretto e grazioso – in which we heard Shira Ben Yehoshua’s lyrical oboe, with concertmaster Geana Gandelman playing the final melancholic melody. Following a sense of wellbeing provided by the lush timbre of the JSO’s woodwind section in the third movement, the mammoth fourth looms large with its horn theme (a melody for Alphorn heard by Brahms in Switzerland), its chorale intoned by trombones and bassoons and majestic coda.

No comments: