Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gala opening concert of 2012 Israel Music Celebration

 The gala opening of the 15th Israeli Music Celebration took place September 19th 2012 in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre under the auspices of the Israeli Council for Art and Culture and the Ministry of Culture and Sports and in cooperation with “The Voice of Music” Israeli Radio IBA. Taking over this year as musical director of the festival, composer and teacher Dr. Boaz Ben-Moshe opened the event with words of welcome. Paul Landau, outgoing president of the Israel Music Institute, mentioned the fact that in this year’s festival there would be concerts in five cities – Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Upper Nazareth and Beer Sheba, that the programs would include old- and new music, classical- and lighter music, eastern- and western music and that the composer of the year would be Mordecai Seter. Maestro Guy Feder conducted the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra IBA in “Transitions”, the Jerusalem concert. Prior to the evening’s program, we heard an orchestrated version of a song of Haim Hefer, a tribute to the great Israeli playwright, poet and songwriter who had passed away the previous day at age 86. The first work on the program was Mordecai Seter’s (1916-1994) “Midnight Vigil – Rhapsody on Yemenite Themes”. The work, in which tradition and language are intertwined, has undergone a number of transitions, from a ballet of fourteen minutes to an oratorio of 43 ; the version for symphony orchestra was written in 1959, the fifth and final version being a concert oratorio for tenor (or alto), three choirs and symphony orchestra. The work, inspired by oriental chants, is scored for a large orchestra, including four percussionists. The JSO presented the work’s rich collage of melodies and dance, of timbres created by effects and multi-layering, of jubilance, of dark- and disturbingly intensive instrumental mixes as well as haunting textures. One of the work’s strengths is its huge offering of solos, the orchestra’s wind- and percussion players receiving the lion’s share, these solos providing much pleasure to the audience. We then heard “Images of the Soul” a concerto for two clarinets and orchestra by Benjamin Yusupov (b. 1962, Tajikistan). The piece, commissioned by the Rishon LeZion Orchestra, is the first to be composed for twin clarinetists Alex and Daniel Gurfinkel (b.1992). The composer’s choice of clarinets was due to the fact that, in Jewish tradition, the instrument “has always been identified with the soul” and “its virtuoso qualities and rich color” gave him “a lot of space”, in the composer’s words. The work comprises four movements, each describing various characteristics of the soul: restlessness and turbulence, despair, tranquility and spirituality. Yusupov’s score, handled skillfully by Feder and the JSO, was astounding in its instrumental color, interest and emotional content. The Gurfinkel brothers, working in superb collaboration, were totally immersed in the emotional course of the work, their performance bristling with youthful verve, excitement and technical brilliance. The first movement, evoking the sound of the duduk (a double-reeded oboe-type instrument indigenous to Armenia), presented a mix of vehement, uncompromising textures, loud drum interjections and relentless, indeed, screaming effects on the clarinets, contrasted with soft, soul-searching, muted effects culminating in a wild dance with hints at klezmer- and jazz styles. The second movement “Potent Stillness” is soulful, the long, drawn-out clarinet sounds joining the orchestra in emerging clusters, building up to unrest, later reverting back into the initial mesmerizing mood. Yusupov titled the third and final movement “Exuberant Rhythms of the Soul”. It begins with a thunderous awakening, a broad orchestral sound, includes dance rhythms, much percussion, much clarinet presence, its melodic subjects threaded throughout the vibrant canvas of this moving work. We then heard the world premiere of “At Dawn” by Menachem Zur (b. Israel, 1942). A prolific composer and professor at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Zur’s oeuvre includes chamber music, vocal-, symphonic- and electronic music and an opera. “At Dawn” is a work of huge orchestral scope and intricate instrumental detail; descriptive and, at times magical, the work exposes the many timbres of the symphony orchestra, including nature associations – insects, birds, etc. This mood piece calls for a large orchestra with a mildly eclectic addition of instruments, such as the oud (the sound of which was produced on a synthesizer) and the rain stick. Each musical idea presented its own take on instrumental timbre. The concert concluded with “Transitions” by pianist, conductor and composer Yaron Gottfried (b.1968), an artist whose repertoire spans classical-, contemporary- and jazz music. In “Transitions”, commissioned by the Rishon LeZion Orchestra and premiered by it in 2000, the composer, influenced by the significance of the time in history, asks some universal questions, creating a dialogue with the audience as to what the new millennium is to bring - “wars and destruction…peace on earth” and what kinds of human beings we are to become…. “programmed to the point of losing emotions?” The work consists of four movements played without a break. A reflective piece, it opens with a horn solo and bells over a haunting “screen” of sound, the second movement darker and more static, culminating in a melancholy violin solo. The third movement, disturbing in its sense of restlessness and chaos, is followed by an optimistic, soothing, almost sentimental fourth movement. Gottfried’s writing is both compact yet full of meaning, his musical writing challenging the listener and reaching out to his audience in an articulate and communicative language. Guy Feder’s conducting of the festive concert, a program representing many facets of modern Israeli musical composition, was articulate and the result of deep and sensitive reading into the scores of all four works.

No comments: