Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Michael Sanderling conducts the Young Symphonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar

The Young Symphonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar recently completed a concert tour of Germany and Israel, the final concert taking place in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre on October 3rd 2013. This concerts series was directed by Michael Sanderling. Established in 2011, the orchestra selects its players from outstanding young musicians from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and the Liszt School of Music in Weimar. Rehearsing, performing and celebrating together, the orchestra provides the young musicians with the opportunity to meet in dialogue, musical and otherwise, based on the understanding of the Holocaust, of friendship and the strength of human encounter. The members meet on the basis of music as the platform of attentive listening, intuitive understanding and community. In addition to general orchestral repertoire, the Young Symphonic Orchestra’s programs always include works of Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust and by some who survived it. The newly opened Weimar Archives are a source of new musical- and other material that will serve as a reminder of the German Jews’ extraordinary contribution to cultural life in Germany before the Holocaust.

The Jerusalem concert began with the national anthems of both Israel and Germany and words of welcome by Mr. Shimon Peres - President of Israel, by Prof. Yinam Leef – President of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and by Member of Knesset Mr. Reuven Rivlin. Reuven Rivlin praised Prof. Michael Wolpe, of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, for his energy and vision in establishing the orchestra, and spoke of the real value of music as forming a bridge of hope between both cities and two peoples.

‘Cellist and conductor Michael Sanderling was born and educated in Berlin. His career as ‘cellist has included teaching, principal roles in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, solo performances and chamber music. Today he has a busy international career as a conductor.

The concert opened with the “Passacaglia for Orchestra” opus 4 by Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996). Born in Hamburg, Goldschmidt enjoyed a successful career as pianist, composer and conductor in Germany. He fled to England in 1935 but, despite remaining there for the rest of his life, he, tragically, never managed to become well assimilated in England and it was only towards the end of his life there that he received recognition for the uniqueness and high quality of his music. The opus 4 Passacaglia (1925) is an early work and the first to win Goldschmidt acclaim in Germany. In a sense, it is his graduation piece from when he was studying Composition under Franz Schreker; the work won him the Mendelssohn Composition Prize. After its premiere, Goldschmidt sent the manuscript to his publisher, Universal Edition, and forgot about it. The work was discovered in the UE archives in 1994. Although an early work, it displays musical maturity and confidence. Sanderling and the Young Symphony Orchestra presented the essentially Romantic work in all its fine orchestration - from its mysterious low string melodies to powerful expression of a large orchestral sound – its mood remaining serious throughout.

We then heard Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s (1609-1847) Violin Concerto in e minor opus 64, with Yuval Herz as soloist. Born in 1989 in Jerusalem, Yuval Herz began playing the violin at age six. Today he enjoys an international performing career as a soloist and chamber musician, is the recipient of many prizes and has been supported by the America-Israel Cultural Foundation since 2003. A graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Herz is currently studying for a Performance Diploma at the Jacobs School of Music of Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He plays on a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin, an instrument on loan to him from the America-Israel Foundation. Although the violin concerto was Mendelssohn’s last orchestral work, it is known that he had made sketches for it much earlier. Playing the work has brought fame to many a young virtuoso. Yuval Herz gave poignant expression to its melodic beauty, lending temperament and spontaneity to cadenzas, yet standing back to present Mendelssohn’s innate charm, modesty and taking on the work’s technical demands with total ease and brilliance. There was a sense that the young orchestral players were listening intently; they never covered violin solo sections and their playing was fresh and alive as they created rich, Mendelssohn-type orchestral timbres. Throughout the concert, the wind sections proved themselves commendably.

Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) “The Youth’s Magic Horn” – a cornucopia of songs - is based on anonymous poems collected by Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano. The Mahler settings are written for voice and orchestra. In this concert, baritone Guy Pelc sang four songs from the collection. Born in Israel in 1992, Guy Pelc has soloed much in Baroque works, in operas and with several of the Israeli Baroque Ensembles. He sang the role of Apollo in “Orfeo” of Monteverdi in a recording under Andrew Parrott and with the Taverner Consort. At the present, Pelc is studying voice with Marina Levit and Ido Ariel and orchestral conducting with Evgeny Zirlin. In a performance that was well balanced, profound, touching and finely detailed, Pelc and Sanderling’s players conjured up a detailed and evocative Mahlerian canvas, on which man and idyllic nature intermingle with birdsongs, marches, bugles and dances. Together they presented the composer’s complex human mix of tragedy, humor, melancholy, pathos, joy, strength, bitterness and self-mocking irony. Pelc has poise and quiet confidence. He showed awareness of the dramatic complexity and intensity of these songs. He sings German well, highlighting words to give emotional meaning to, as in “St. Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fish” a word like “glänzen”, (gleam) adding almost visual shine to the somewhat cynical scene taking place at a river. Pelc contended well with the orchestra, his upper register bright and powerful. The orchestra explored its rich palette of colors and with involvement and delicacy.

The concert concluded with Dmitri Shostakovich’s (1906-1975) Symphony no.9 in b minor opus 54 (1939). Calling for two flutes and piccolo, two oboes and English horn, three clarinets (one doubling E-flat clarinet) and bass clarinet, two bassoons and contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, tambourine, military drum, bass drum, cymbals, tam-tam, xylophone, celesta, harp and strings, here was a work to celebrate the extensive resources of this orchestra. Composed in 1939, the symphony draws attention to the dramatic polarity of Shostakovich’s nature, this producing music unusually rich and complex, beginning with a large, somber first movement, followed by a light-hearted Scherzo and then a high-energy, whimsical Presto movement. The meditative first movement indeed reflects the mood of anxiety and desolation of the time it was composed. Sanderling’s reading of the work bristled with cantabile playing, nostalgia, fragility and dark and haunting moments juxtaposed with strident, confrontational sections. This is excellent orchestral fare and it was heightened by clean playing and some wonderful solos – many played by the orchestra’s fine flautists. The audience was delighted with the high standard of musicianship of Young Symphonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar and with Michael Sanderling’s communicative and elegant conducting.

No comments: