Monday, February 16, 2015

Notes from the 2015 Eilat Chamber Music Festival (2) - the Geneva Camerata, conductor/pianist David Greilsammer, Steven Isserlis - 'cello

The Geneva Camerata presented two concerts at the recent Eilat Chamber Music Festival, which took
place at the Dan Eilat Hotel, (February 2nd to 7th 2015). Formed in 2013 by its musical director and conductor, Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, the orchestra comprises virtuoso, dynamic and versatile musicians of the younger generation. The GECA performs music of all periods and styles, in particular, early Baroque to Classical and contemporary repertoire, to electronic music, folk and jazz. Performing 35 concerts a year in Switzerland and further afield, the orchestra engages in a variety of eclectic projects.

Born in Jerusalem in 1977, David Greilsammer began his music studies at the Rubin Academy of Music at age six. Following studies at the Juilliard School under Yoheved Kaplinsky, in addition to working with Richard Goode, he made his debut Lincoln Center (New York), becoming Young Musician of the Year (French Music Awards). Considered a unique interpreter of Baroque, Classical and contemporary music, Greilsammer has won much acclaim for his performance of Mozart works. In addition to directing the Geneva Camerata, he is artist-in-residence at the Saint-Etienne Opera House, France, and the Meitar Ensemble (Israel). Greilsammer has appeared with many major orchestras. In the previous season he played and conducted all 27 Mozart piano concertos. His latest recording presents an intriguing combination – the music of Domenico Scarlatti with that of John Cage.

The Big Blue Hall of the Dan Eilat Hotel was packed to capacity for “The Reign of the Cello” (February 5th), performed by the Geneva Camerata (conductor: David Greilsammer) with soloist ‘cellist Steven Isserlis (UK). The concert opened with a suite from Marin Marais’ opera (tragédie lyrique) “Alcione” that was premiered in Paris in 1706. Conducting without a baton, Greilsammer and his ensemble produced a vivid, stylish and Baroque-focused performance, the buoyant energetic sound of the ensemble reminding us that the French opera orchestra was larger than that of its Italian counterpart. The performance was a celebration of Marin Marais’ fine orchestration and descriptive skills. This was followed by György Ligeti’s “Ramifications” (1969), a work written for two string ensembles tuned a quarter tone apart. The work presents timbres resulting for the two tunings, dense textures, the activity inside them and what the composer described as “micro-polyphony”, a reference to that used by such Renaissance composers as Isaac, Josquin or Byrd. The GECA players took on board the piece’s challenges. Then to a fresh, incisive reading of W.A.Mozart’s Symphony No.29 in A-major K.201, a masterpiece composed when the composer was 17 in the sunlit key of A-major, its grace and charm giving way to some dramatic moments…certainly fine festival fare. Remaining in the Classical style, we heard Joseph Haydn’s Concerto in C-major for ‘cello and orchestra, Hob. VIIB:1, a work with an interesting history. Composed between 1761 and 1765, the score was lost during the composer’s lifetime and only rediscovered in 1961 at the Prague National Museum. Isserlis, playing the first movement with courtly elegance, set the tone for his reading of the work, the Adagio movement spelt out in pure poetry, with the virtuosity of the final movement focusing on beauty of tone precision rather than on ‘cello acrobatics. Isserlis’ encore was the tradition Catalan song played by- and associated with Pablo Casals. As to the “Reign of the Cello”, we were left wanting to hear more of Isserlis’ playing.

“La Casa del Diavolo” (February 6th), another concert of the Geneva Camerata (conductor/solo piano David Greilsammer) took its name from Luigi Boccherini’s Symphony in d-minor opus 12 No.4. Composed in 1771, the symphony is dramatic, albeit not program music as such. The Geneva Camerata’s performance of it was fresh and energetic, making plenty of its brilliant string writing and grace, the harpsichord delicate and effective. The “devil’s house” seems to be ensconced in the final movement, its slow introduction leading up to the sinister main theme. Greilsammer and his players gave their all to this tempestuous finale. The Suite from Jean-Philippe Rameau’s most comical (and mean-spirited) opera “Platée” made for exciting listening, presenting Rameau’s predilection for changing moods, humor and most imaginative dance music with brisk tempi and fantasy. Adding to the musical depiction of “L’orage” (the storm), the players added some sound effects of their own. Henry Purcell’s Suite from his semi-opera “The Fairy Queen” was suavely presented and ornamented, with some sensitive timing and beautiful recorder playing. The jazzy improvisation that crept in seemed out of place. The evening finished with David Greilsammer performing the solo piano role of W.A.Mozart’s Piano Concerto no.9 in E-flat major K.271 “Jeunehomme”, an early concerto, composed by Mozart at age 21, a work, however, technically demanding and abounding in profound feelings (and some impudent comments.) Greilsammer, conducting from the piano, delighted with his clean passagework and agility, moments of tenderness and moments of candor, his articulate playing, not marred by excessive use of the sustaining pedal, mirrored by the orchestra’s bright signature sound. Mozart wrote a number of cadenzas to the concerto, as well as lead-ins with plenty of flourishes. Greilsammer’s own first movement cadenza was peppered with some jazz-tinted and unconventional elements.

No comments: