Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Members of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra perform a house concert in Kfar Shmaryahu, near Tel Aviv

A festive fundraising concert for the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra was generously hosted by Mrs. Ora Holin on January 8th 2016 at her home in Kfar Shmaryahu, a tranquil suburb within the Tel Aviv district. Inclement weather did not deter the many guests from arriving from near and far to attend the house concert performed by some of the orchestra’s artists, both instrumental and vocal. Maestro David Shemer, the orchestra’s founder and musical director, opened with words of thanks to Mrs. Holin, talking briefly about the orchestra as the first Israeli ensemble to play Baroque music on period instruments. He added that playing in a private home was indeed the most authentic environment for performing Baroque music.

The evening’s musical program opened with Antonio Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata opus 1 no.12 “La Follia” in d-minor RV63, the final work of twelve trio sonatas composed in 1705. This bold and daring work, scored for two violins (Noam Schuss, Dafna Ravid) and basso continuo (Eliav Lavie-theorbo, Orit Messer-Jacobi-‘cello, David Shemer-harpsichord), a true concert piece bearing the stamp of Vivaldi’s true genius, was a hearty opener for such an event. One of several sets of variations based on the same melody, Vivaldi’s “La Follia”, a single-movement sonata, comprises the subject melody and 19 variations. The JBO players presented the full variety of moods offered by Vivaldi’s work, from the noble opening variations, to virtuosic variations for first violin (Schuss) or ‘cello (Messer-Jacobi), to tranquil charm and elegance, to a dirge-like variation, to energetic brightness, variations of fuller and lesser textures, from the intimate to the exciting and exhilarating, then ending with two understated, retreating phrases to bring the listener back down to earth. One sensed the inspiration of the moment in some eloquent ornamentation heard, especially on the part of Noam Schuss.

For the three last movements of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite no.2 in b-minor, the ensemble was joined by Idit Shemer-flute, Tami Borenstein-viola and Yehuda Halevy-double bass. In this work, Bach took the opportunity of giving the flute the solo part: the transverse flute was coming into its own at the time. Composed in Leipzig, there is every reason to assume it was performed one-to-a-part, this theory endorsed by Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott. The JBO players’ performance at the house concert gave lively support to this assumption. Here was Bach’s secular music – his stylized dance vocabulary - played in all its refinement, sophistication and subtlety, with flautist Idit Shemer opting to emphasize the elegant and playful side of the virtuosic flute role.

The final work on the program was Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater”, the dying composer’s masterpiece, with its compelling paradox of tenderness and vividness. Vocal soloists soprano Daniela Skorka and countertenor Alon Harari coordinated well, setting the tragic scene in the opening section, leaning into dissonances, Harari’s accenting and ornaments highlighting verbal gestures, with Skorka utilizing her easeful vibrato to color strategic words. Both addressed the rhetoric with empathy, lyricism and, at times, forthright intensity. In “Dum emisit spiritum” (Till His spirit forth he sent) each detached syllable created a spine-chilling sense of the waning of life. The crystal-clear, personal utterances of the instrumentalists, weaving Pergolesi’s rich counterpoint through the musical fabric, made for an inspiring milieu for singers and audience alike.

Following the concert, Mr. Dan Shorer spoke of the first international “Bach in Jerusalem” Festival to take place from March 17th to 21st 2016 under the auspices of the JBO and centering around the actual date of J.S.Bach’s birthday. Inviting the Baroque music-loving public to give its support to this exciting project, he spoke of renowned artists taking part in the concerts and emphasized the slant the international festival would be taking: to examine the influence Bach’s music has had on musicians and the development of music in general.       

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