Friday, March 22, 2013

Roy Amotz and Amit Dolberg in a flute and piano recital at the Redeemer Church, Jerusalem

Climbing the stairs to the refectory of the neo-Romanesque Church of the Redeemer in the Muristan Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, one was taking time out from everyday life and from the inclement weather outside to enjoy an evening of German- and French music.  The event was a recital performed by Israeli artists Roy Amotz (flute) and Amit Dolberg (piano). Gunther Martin Göttsche, the church’s newly appointed organist and choir director, opened with words of welcome.

Flautist Roy Amotz (b.1982, Israel) completed his musical studies in Israel and Germany. The recipient of several scholarships and international awards, he has been a member of the Yehudi Menuhin Live-Music-Now Association (Berlin) since 2007. A dedicated performer of modern music, Amotz is a guest player of the Israel Contemporary Players and a member of the Meitar Ensemble (a group performing contemporary Israeli chamber music and music based on Jewish themes and concepts) and the Gropius Ensemble, the latter focusing on creating new genres that draw on different art disciplines. Amotz has soloed with orchestras in Israel and Europe; festivals in which he has appeared include the Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival (USA), the Stuttgart International Bach Academy (Germany) and the Lucerne Music Festival. Since 2005, he has been a member of the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra, with which he has toured Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. He has served as principal flautist of the Israeli Opera Orchestra since 2009.

Pianist Amit Dolberg has studied in Israel, London and Berlin. A recipient of prizes and scholarships, Dolberg performs in Israel and further afield, taking part in such festivals as the Spanish Nights Festival (Germany) and the Warsaw Autumn Festival, also recording for Israeli radio. Founder and musical director of the Meitar Ensemble, Dolberg is renowned for his performance of modern music in Israel and abroad; from 2005 to 2011, he was a member of the Israeli Contemporary Players and, from 2009 to 2011, he served as the artistic director of “Hateiva” – the Israeli centre for contemporary music.  Dolberg is a faculty member of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, serving as head of the workshop for contemporary music.

The concert opened with J.S.Bach’s Sonata in E flat major for flute and harpsichord BWV 1031, an obbligato sonata (right hand notes fully written out); it is a work surrounded by some doubt as to whether Johann Sebastian or his son Carl Philipp Emanuel composed it or whether it might have been a joint effort. The artists gave a sympathetic reading of the work, its Baroque character outlined by varied textures, some inégal playing and a minimal use of flute vibrato. The duo’s signature sound is rich, fruity and assertive, but certainly poetic and well nuanced. The final Allegro was taken at a rapid pace. The artists’ playing of it was brilliant, muscular and energetic with much communication between them. They were, of course, performing on modern instruments, but, with the recorder then becoming superseded by the transverse flute by the 1720s, Roy Amotz’ playing showed that these works were indeed a celebration of the technical and expressive qualities and tonal colors available to the more gregarious transverse flute. Appearing in three different original manuscripts, Bach scholars believe that Bach’s Flute Sonata in g minor BWV 1020 was written by one of Bach’s sons (possibly C.P.E.Bach) or by one of Johann Sebastian’s pupils and that it may have originally been composed for the violin. Dolberg and Amotz performed it with a true sense of duo teamwork, their reading of the first movement – Allegro – hearty and fired, with an economic use of embellishment. In the second movement, with much melodic interest in the piano set against long held notes in the flute, the artists created a sense of tranquility and balance graced by elegant phrase endings. Once again offering the audience the full range of dynamics of modern instruments, the final Allegro was rapid and exciting, but crisp and well contrasted.
Roy Amotz then performed C.P.E.Bach’s Sonata in a minor for solo flute Wq 132, first published in 1763 in the Berlin musical quarterly “Musikalisches Mancherley” (Musical Assortment). Presenting the work’s inter-voice dialogue and sharp dynamic contrasts, Amotz’ confident playing produced a rich variety of dramatic gestures in varied tempi, using some rubato and peppered with exciting, well-fashioned passagework. Of the manner of performing the work, C.P.E.Bach had written: “The components of performance are the loudness and softness of notes, their pressure, spring, draw, thrust and vibration, with breaking, holding, slowing down and accelerating…” Amotz’ uniquely large palette of timbres, fantasy and expression (including some dark, solidly-anchored sounds distinctive to his specific musical palette) served him well in the performance of this remarkable piece.

Introducing the French content of the program, we heard Amit Dolberg perform “Voiles” (Veils, Sails) from Claude Debussy’s Piano Preludes Vol.I (1909-1910), in playing that was lush, subtle and well delineated in its multi-layering, the pianist’s use of the sustaining pedal contributing to the piece’s enigmatic and exotic mood. Amotz and Dolberg played three pieces of incidental music Debussy composed to accompany a set of staged poems - “The Songs of Bilitis” (1894) – based on texts by photographer, poet and author of erotic novels Pierre Louÿs. Debussy created the three pieces in 1897 and 1998. Amotz and Dolberg captured the delicate and mysterious states of mind of these slow, pastoral and hedonistic pieces in fragile timbres and finely sculpted phrases.

If C.P.E.Bach’s Sonata in a minor (1763) was the first really significant piece for solo flute, Debussy’s tone poem “Syrinx” for solo flute was the next and, actually, the first solo composition for the modern Böhm flute (perfected in 1847).  Inspired by the sentiments of Pan’s sadness over losing his love, the piece was originally written without bar-lines and breath marks, thus offering the performer generous room for interpretation. Amotz’ pacing gives the work a sense of broad timelessness; he weaves its lush sensuousness with intensity, rendering the piece’s beguiling and dreamy lyricism as gripping and mysterious as ever!

French-born composer Tristan Murail (b.1947), renowned for his groundbreaking work on the relationship between instrumental performance and aspects of electronics, composed the piano piece “Cloches d’adieu et un sourire” (Bells of Farewell and a Smile) in 1992 in memory of his teacher Olivier Messiaen, its musical fabric alluding to a piano prelude of Messiaen that also evokes the sound of bells. Dolberg’s acute sense of color and competent, flowing portrayal of Murail’s structure of clanging bells of different sizes, some sounding closer, some more distant, their resonance, the dying away of sound, of harmonies, dissonances and clusters, produced a feast of timbres and dimensions. The concert ended with Olivier Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir” (The Blackbird). Commissioned in 1957, it is one of the composer’s many pieces based on his intensive study of bird songs. Straddling the boundary between tonality and atonality, the work, by virtue of its subject, gives more of the stage to the flute than to the piano. Amotz meets the demands for virtuosic runs, various effects evoking the blackbird’s call and the piece’s sense of randomness and spontaneity. For an encore, the artists improvised a short piece, choosing to use a prepared piano (a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects between or on the strings, hammers or dampers) and flute.

The Redeemer Church refectory made for a sympathetic and acoustically welcoming environment for Roy Amotz and Amit Dolberg’s recital. Through their full-bodied signature sound and close collaboration, the artists have much to say about the repertoire they play.  Their performance was one of interest, delight and excellence, and it spoke to the senses.


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