Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performs under the baton of Hans Peter Ochsenhofer

The Young Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Centre and in cooperation with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, consists of 80 or so of Israel’s finest young musicians from age 14 to 18, most of them recipients of Israel-America Cultural Foundation scholarships. Founded by Mr. Bruno Landesberg and the Hanan Susz Foundation, the YIPO is also supported by the Marc Rich Foundation, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, the Beracha Foundation and the Austrian Cultural Forum. Major General (res.) Nehemia Dagan and the Karev Foundation help in obtaining scholarships for YIPO members currently serving in the Outstanding Musicians Program of the Israel Defense Forces.

Throughout the academic year, the young players study mostly solo- and chamber works; the YIPO provides the students with an opportunity to play orchestral repertoire and gain experience in music-making of a different kind. The players are selected from all parts of Israel and from different communities. Twice a year, the YIPO meets for intensive playing sessions, guided by renowned Israeli- and overseas conductors. The orchestra has also collaborated with the RIAS Young Symphonic Orchestra in Berlin (2008) and with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (2009) in joint programs. Coaching the players in the 2011 summer session were violinists Nitay Tzori and Uri Dror, violists Zvi Carmeli and Kshistoff Kozalsky (UK), double bass player Nir Conforti, flautist Yossi Arnheim, bassoonist Miri Ziskind, trumpeters Eran Reemy and Yuval Shapira, horn players Alon Reuven and Luca Benucci (Italy) and percussionist Alon Bor.

Conducting the YIPO on July 21st 2011 in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall (Jerusalem Theatre) was Maestro Hans Peter Ochsenhofer (Austria) whose instrumental background includes trumpet, violin and viola. This was the second time he has worked with the YIPO. Ochsenhofer has played with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wiener Virtuosen and the Vienna String Quartet and has taught at the Vienna Conservatory, being offered a full professorship for viola at the Vienna National University of Music in 1993.Maestro Ochsenhofer has conducted and instructed orchestras in Europe, the USA and Japan.

German composer Paul Hindemith (1895-1963), having frequently clashed with Hitler’s government (he was not Jewish), left for America in 1940 (a country once referred by him as the “land of limited impossibilities”.) There, he had a working relationship with the ballet impresario LĂ©onide Massine, having composed the music to his “Nobilissima visione”; the two discussed the possibilities of producing a ballet with music based on works of Carl Maria von Weber. A falling-out ensued and the project was dropped. Three years later, however, Hindemith reworked the piece, resulting in his “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber”. The themes are taken from Weber’s Piano Duets opus 60.4, the Overture to Turandot, Piano Duet opus 3.2 and Piano Duets opus 60.2 and 60.7. (Hindemith was familiar with the Weber duets from playing them with his wife.) The 1943 version of Metamorphosis was an immediate success, being the kind of splashy, colorful orchestral piece that appealed to American audiences, and it has remained among Hindemith’s most popular works. The title word “Metamorphosis” is central to the work, with Hindemith adapting one musical extract to each of the work’s four movements, expanding forms and modifying melodies, dressing melodic lines up with trills and freeing up rhythms. From the very outset, Ochsenhofer and his young players draw their audience into a kaleidoscope of orchestral timbres and gestures, the orchestra’s full orchestral sound never too dense to be articulate; they make use of the gamut of dynamic variation and beautiful solos. One was under the impression that the players had delved deeply into the score with its tender melodies, spectacular symphonic writing and its allusion to birdsong, Chinese music and jazz.

As a result of much success and several visits to England, Bohemian composer Antonin Dvorak’s (1841-1904) Symphony no. 7 in D minor opus 70, written between 1884 and 1885, was commissioned by the London Philharmonic Society. It was premiered in London in April of 1885 under the baton of the composer. Composed in the shadow of Dvorak’s mother’s death, the symphony is sometimes referred to as “The Tragic”; Dvorak himself subtitled the work “From Sad Years”, it being the product of a time of “silent sorrow and resignation”. Influenced by Brahms’ Symphony no. 3, Dvorak’s 7th Symphony shows sharper focus on form and polyphony than previous works. An emotionally tall order for a youth orchestra, the audience was presented with a mature, noble and profound performance by the YIPO. Opening with a sense of foreboding, the many disturbing and dramatic elements of the first movement were only temporarily relieved by a small clarinet dance motif. The yearning nostalgia of the second movement found expression in moving performance of horns, ‘cellos and oboe. Following a “driven”, exciting Scherzo punctuated by a rustic-type trio evoking bird calls and hunting horns, anguish and torment return with the final Allegro.

Both works on the program gave the stage to the many fine players and to the individual colors of each of the sections. The YIPO boasts a rich, well-blended string section, fine wind sections and competent percussionists. All were heard. Professor Ochsenhofer’s approach is personable, his conducting language delightfully detailed and clear. Shut your eyes and your ears are met by the musicianship of experienced orchestral musicians. Open them and you see and partakes of the joy and exuberant energy of tomorrow’s finest players.

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