Sunday, January 27, 2013

Organist Yuval Rabin performs at the Mormon University, Jerusalem

The January 20th 2013 concert of the “Sunday Evening Classics” series at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies, Mormon University (Jerusalem) was an organ recital performed by Yuval Rabin.  The program “And the Melody Returns – Ostinato and Variations” focused on themes and variations of composers of the 16th-  to 21st centuries. The 39-stop organ in the Center’s auditorium, inaugurated in 1987, was constructed by the Danish organ-builder Marcussen. The two organ cases, built of ash wood, are modern and elegant in their simplicity, the horizontal Chamade Trumpet, protruding from the front, adding visual beauty.

Born in Haifa in 1973, Yuval Rabin studied at the Dunie Weizmann Conservatory (Haifa), the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (organ, theory, Baroque music, education), the Musik Akademie der Stadt Basel (organ, modern improvisation) and the Schola Cantorum Basiliensas (harpsichord, clavichord). Today, Rabin participates in festivals, performs internationally with ensembles, orchestras and choirs on harpsichord and clavichord and records. His CD “Organ Music from Israel” for the MDG label has received excellent reviews. Rabin lives in Basel, Switzerland, but remains involved in Israel’s music life, holding master classes here; he is the director of the Israel International Organ Festival (under the auspices of the Israel Organ Association) and will direct the Jewish Music Days (conference and concerts) to be held in February 2013 at the University of Haifa. Rabin composes and writes poetry.

Organist and president of the Israel Organ Association Mr. Gerard Levi opened the evening with a few words about the Israel Organ Association’s monthly concerts, informing those present that this recital was the IOA’s first at the Mormon University.

The program began with J.P.Sweelinck’s (1562-1621) variations on the joyous, well-known secular melody (originally English) “Unter der Linden grüne” (Under the Green Lime Tree) SwWV 325, a tune popular in Holland at the time. Varying with flute- and reed stops, Rabin brings out the improvisatory nature and fine polyphonic- and contrapuntal writing of the imaginative variations. Later in style, Dietrich Buxtehude’s Ciacona in e BuxWV 160 captivated the ear with its mass of chords sometimes clashing, at others, caressing and mellow, its rhetoric and poetry expressed in a variety of timbres. The program also included a work of Frescobaldi, for which Rabin devised the variations.

Then to the lush, spiritually-tinged sound world of César Franck’s body of organ music that was not written for liturgical use, of which there exist a sum total of 12 pieces! Franz Liszt claimed that “these poetic works have a clearly marked place alongside the masterpieces of Bach”. Franck’s “Trois Chorals” (the “choral” here used to describe an original theme harmonized in chorale style) of 1890 are his final works and represent the summit of his creative genius at the organ. We heard the second- in b minor – beginning with a contemplative and mournful bass theme, spiraling into a giant passacaglia, its Franck-type “serene anxiety” (G.-J. Aubry) colored with bell effects and rich Romantic- and melancholic harmonies, its struggle finally finding tranquility. Rabin gave a sympathetic, articulate and contemplative performance of the first of Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) organ works, the untitled Andante in D (1823), a work distancing the composer from his former classical style mindset and into the Romantic style.

Presenting the interest and involvement of European-born Israeli composers in oriental music, Yuval Rabin played two movements from German-born Haim Alexander’s (1915-2012) “Contemplations on a Yemenite Folk Song” - a modal work (not quite venturing into atonality) merging oriental charm with western ideas in a kaleidoscope of colors and gentle dissonances.

The recital ended with J.S.Bach’s Passacaglia in c minor BWV 582. Composed possibly between 1706 and 1713, it is thought that the first half of the main subject was taken from French composer André Raison’s “Christe: Trio en passacaille” from “Messe du deuxième ton” of his “Premier livre d’orgue”. Rabin’s playing of the passacaglia included some ornamenting and gentle flexing as he built up the tension to the work’s final splendor. For a work of this architectonic grandeur, the Marcussen organ, tending to timbral brightness, lacks the profundity and “thunder” effect of the larger pipe organ.  

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