Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Young Symphonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar on tour in Israel in its third concert season

Maestro Michael Sanderling (
The Young Symphonic Orchestra Jerusalem Weimar, consisting of students from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and from the Franz Liszt University of Music, Weimar, gave its first performances in the summer of 2011. In addition to mainstream orchestral repertoire, the orchestra plays European music of the Holocaust period, offering the German and Israeli concert-going public another chance to hear these works, many of them forgotten, others recently rediscovered. In August 2015 the orchestra played in Berlin for the opening of the “Young Euro Classic”, then at the Chorin Music Summer Festival, the Weimarhalle and the Wolfsburg CongressPark, prior to its October Israeli tour. This writer attended the Jerusalem Weimar Orchestra’s concert on October 23rd 2015 in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre. The concert was conducted by Berlin-born and educated Maestro Michael Sanderling, one of the most celebrated conductors of his generation; for Sanderling, working with young people is an integral part of his professional life.

Following words of welcome from Israeli President Mr. Reuven Rivlin, the program opened with the Israeli premiere of LINKS.METAMORPHOSES by composer, conductor, arranger and pianist Ziv Cojocaru. Born in Beer-Sheba in 1977, Cojocaru is a cross-over musician, spanning the fields of classical-, contemporary- and popular music. A work endeavoring to portray human connections and relationships, LINKS.METAMORPHOSES is dedicated to the ideals of learning, aesthetics, expression and humanism, as demonstrated in the joint Weimar-Jerusalem project. Fine fare for a large orchestra, the work bristles with active washes of sound, fine homophonic tutti and interesting and evocative timbres, enchanting moments, excitement and drama. This was followed by Kurt Weill’s Symphony No.2, a work completed in Paris 1933-1934, where the composer sought asylum after he was forced to emigrate from Germany when the National Socialists took over and before he finally settled in the USA. A fine work, neglected in today’s concert repertoire, there has been much discussion as to how programmatic Weill’s Symphony No.2 is, despite the fact that it has no explicit program. Sanderling and the orchestra nevertheless recreated the melancholic climate and dark clouds of impending doom hanging over Europe in the 1930s and of Weill’s cabaret style in particular, from the first sultry trumpet solo (and plenty more fine solo passagework) bitter-sweet melodies and the composer’s typical appealingly  sentimental musical language with its underlying tragedy. Watching the young players’ expressions, it was clear that this music is so enjoyable to perform, with its bold approach, melodiousness, wit and accessibility.

Alexey Stadler, today a student at the Franz Liszt University of Music in Weimar, was the soloist in Dmitri Shostakovich’s Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra No.1 in E-flat major opus 107.  At 24, the Russian ‘cellist is already a seasoned performer and has won numerous prizes. Stadler’s performance of the concerto was serious, single-minded and intense, setting the scene in the first movement with feisty vitality and addressing the second movement with exquisite delicacy and expressiveness, its bare, disturbing conclusion speaking of Shostakovich’s personal pessimism. After careful pacing of the third movement – Cadenza – with its gloomy musings on the second movement, the Allegro con moto was played with intelligence, precision and virtuosity. The prominent horn role, woven throughout the concerto, was tackled courageously by one of the German students, no easy task for young horn players.

Concluding the program, Michael Sanderling and the orchestra performed Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture “Romeo and Juliet”, in which Shakespeare’s tragedy and the composer’s tortured personal life merge to produce a masterpiece that alternates between oppressively dramatic moments and those describing the rapturous love of the young couple. Opening with the delightful gentle clarinet and bassoon chorale, conductor and orchestra presented the descriptive, richly timbred work, its beauty and emotion, in polished and well-coordinated playing, bringing to an end a concert of high-level, dedicated and finely crafted playing.

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