Friday, April 24, 2015

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yaron Gottfried, in a concert to celebrate Israel's 67th Independence Day

With the Henry Crown Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre packed to capacity on April 22nd 2015, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra IBA, under the baton of Yaron Gottfried, performed a festive concert for the eve of Israel’s 67th Independence Day. Soloist was singer Yasmin Levy.

Following words of welcome from JSO director Yair Stern, the event got under way with L. van Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No.3 opus 72a (1806). Of the four overtures Beethoven wrote for his opera “Leonore” (later renamed as “Fidelio”) this piece, better suited to the concert hall than the opera house, traces the dramatic ups and downs of Florestan’s fate in the “Fidelio” story in Beethoven’s full orchestration, a setting rich in its use of wind instruments (including off-stage trumpet, to signal Pizarro’s defeat.) Programmatic content aside, Gottfried and the JSO gave an incisive, varied and exhilarating performance of the work, offering pleasing flute and bassoon solos and whetting the audience’s appetite for a musical event that kept it captive throughout the evening.

We then heard Alexander Uriya Boskovich’s (1907-1964) “The Golden Chain”, instrumental settings of Jewish melodies the composer had heard in villages of the Carpathian Mountains. In 1938, Maestro Issay Dobrowen invited the Transylvanian composer to attend the Palestine Orchestra’s (later to become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra) premiering of the work, one consequence being that Boskovich attended the premiere and decided to stay in Palestine (Israel), becoming an important figure and teacher in the country’s musical life, the other consequence being that his life was saved. In vivid and tasteful orchestrations of melodies familiar to many in the audience, its orchestration offering some dissonance intertwined with the bitter-sweet harmonic fabric, the vignettes of “The Golden Chain” evoked the atmosphere of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, from the melancholy modal lullaby of “Sleep, my Daughter”, to the joy and humor of the “Chazke’le” wedding dance, the mystery and small solos of “The Eternal Enigma”, the magical setting of the love song “Deep in the Woods” and the sweet naivety of the maiden’s song “Yume, Yume”.

Suite no.1 from Manuel de Falla’s (1876-1946) ballet music “The Three-Cornered Hat”, quintessentially Spanish in its folk modes, its traditional dances and excitement, is based on a novella by Pedro Antonio de Alarcón, in which love, jealousy and buffoonery play out against each other. Choreographed by Leonid Massin, the ballet itself was premiered in 1919, with décor by Picasso. Again, without necessarily referring to its programmatic content, the audience was well entertained by the JSO’s presentation of the work’s joy, its brilliant orchestral colors, fast-changing rhythms, driving rhythms and exotic hues.

Following the intermission, the audience returned to the hall to see some extra players seated with the orchestra: Eduardo Abramson - bandoneón (a small concertina played in Argentina, Uruguay and Lithuania), Yechiel Hasson - guitar, Ishai Amir - cajón (a box drum, originally from Peru, on which the player sits) and Philip Luria – piano. This part of the concert featured Yasmin Levy singing tango songs and songs in Ladino, all of them arrangements by Yaron Gottfried. Levy presented the tango songs in all the dramatic roller-coaster ride of love of which they tell, their sensuous passion and the sweeping, inebriating rhythms of the exotic tango dance. Such is “El Amor Contigo” (Loving You):
‘Loving you is difficult.
It is almost impossible.
You are everybody
And really you are nobody…
I never asked that you love me
That your secrets discover me
That you expect me impatiently
That you hopelessly dry my tears at night,
That you make me laugh.
I only ask to be able to love you.’ (Translation: Jessica Malo)
As to the songs in Ladino, those in the audience less familiar with the songs heard in Boskovich’s work were clearly familiar with the gently caressing, lyrical songs of the Sephardic Jewish community as passed down in Ladino from generation to generation. Levy spoke of her parents having sung these songs to her, just as she sings them to her own children. In “Adio kerida” (Goodbye, My Beloved), a song lamenting disappointed love, Levy invited the audience to join her in the refrain:
Goodbye beloved.
I do not want to live.
You have made my life miserable.’
Yasmin Levy’s burnished, unleashed and true voice is not her only attribute: she is very free on stage as her temperament and emotions pour out generously via the texts and melodies. An artist of international renown, she is warm, dramatic and humorous, communicating directly with her audience. She is also a born storyteller. Maestro Gottfried’s arrangements, tailor-made to Levy and to the songs, bristle with color and interest. Add to the above much involved, subtle and polished performance on the part of Luria, Hasson, Amir and Abramson.

A multi-disciplinary musician, who bridges classical, contemporary and jazz music, Maestro Gottfried is known for his innovative and creative concert programming. This event saw Israel’s 67th Independence Day in with heartwarming delight.

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