Sunday, February 21, 2016

Festive festival fare at the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival

Taking place at the Dan Hotel Eilat from February 3rd to 6th 2016, the 11th Eilat Chamber Music Festival offered a number of events that were different from conventional concert fare, highlighting the fact that this was…a festival, and certainly one of Israel’s best.

Roe and Anderson (photo:Maxim Reider)
The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo’s first performance, “The Rite of Spring”, promised to be a concert played by two young and outstanding pianists, but Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson are a duo with a difference! They formed their partnership in 2002 at the Juilliard School of Music and nowadays tour extensively as recitalists and orchestra soloists, they compose and engage in much arranging of works and they present their audiences with action-packed, polished and mind-boggling concerts that keep the listener perched on the edge of his seat. Relaxed and chatty, they talk about the works to be performed. But they bring to the concert hall much more than hype: whether you like their quirky explanations or not, their playing creates a kaleidoscope of vibrant musical canvases. Opening the February 3rd program with Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn opus 56B (two pianos), they colored the work with magically sensitive and contrasted playing, fine shaping, majestic gestures and with the mystery of what lies behind sotto voce playing. Their reading of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (one piano) conjured up the power, cruelty and paganism of the ballet’s storyline, gripping the audience with the work’s asymmetry and jarring accents, their musical description of the sword lethal and uncompromising. But their playing was not just muscular: it was strategically timed, conveying the ballet’s message of estrangement and aloneness. Whisking away the intensity of the “Rite of Spring”, Anderson and Roe played their own arrangement of much-loved melodies from Mozart operas, with playful, opera-buffa-joy and wonderfully cantabile melodies, rounding the number off with their virtuosic, full-on “Ragtime alla Turca”. Their “Carmen thriller” arrangement for two pianos set before the listener so many aspects of Bizet’s “Carmen” – the story’s complexity, its love content, the darker side of gypsy life and much fiery energy. And how delicate and filigree-fine their rendition of the Ballet from Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurodice” was, describing love of a totally different nature, the program ending with a touching rendition of Bob Thiele and George David Weiss’s “What a Wonderful World” (1967), Roe and Anderson’s playing sparkling with optimism and tenderness.

Marianna Vasileva (photo:Maxim Reider)
A large audience filled the Tarshish Hall at the Dan Hotel on February 6th to hear violinist Marianna Vasileva (Russia-Israel) perform all 24 of Niccolò Paganini’s Caprices.  Apart from only one other piece, Paganini’s only violin publication was this set of solo Caprices, published in 1820, probably written between 1801 and 1817. Considered the last word in violin technique, they were dedicated to “all artists” and comprise nearly all his prized violin techniques (they do not include artificial harmonics) in exceptionally demanding settings. Paganini never performed them in public. Not merely etudes, Vasileva has referred to some as “folk music”, with Paganini infusing the miniatures with music he was hearing around him. Vasileva has been working on the pieces for two years and claims that this will be an ongoing project for years to come. Dazzling and, indeed, winning the audience with their intricacies, the artist gave expression to the pieces’ charm and intensity and to the many contrasts between- and within them, to the violin’s many techniques but, above all, to the work’s musical interest.   Presenting of the individual character of each piece, she held the listeners’ attention for the duration of the work. For many people attending the recital, it would have been their first encounter with the mystery and inner-voiced tremolo of “The Trill” (no.6), the imitation of wind instruments in “The Hunt” (no.9) and the sheer virtuosity of “The Devil’s Laughter” (no.13).

Francois Salque, Victor Peirani (photo:Maxim Reider)
“Just About Midnight” on February 4th was an opportune time for night owls to indulge in a rich and unique program of classical music, tango, jazz, gypsy- and new music, performed and improvised by two French artists – ‘cellist François Salque and accordionist/composer Vincent Peirani. In fact, Salque, one of the most outstanding and interesting ‘cellists of his generation and no new face to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, had performed Chopin’s Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano in g-minor opus 65 (piano: Ivan Rudin) the previous day. A personal project of Salque and Peirani’s has been collecting and recording traditional music of Central- and Eastern Europe. The concert opened with a fervent and moving reading of Ernest Bloch’s “Prayer” (1924), followed by the Peirani/Mienniel setting of Astor Piazzolla’s “Alone, All Alone”, commencing as a meditative, nostalgic mood piece, then breaking into exuberant bravura.  There was Milena Dolinova/Krystof Maratka’s Czardas IV, beginning with a sweetly sentimental section, to be followed by the wild, brilliant czardas itself and Bohemian composer/’cellist David Popper’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” (1894) also starting in a quasi-improvisational style, sending the ‘cello into its highest register before moving on to its inevitable excited agenda. Salque and Peirani paid vibrant homage to French gypsy culture with their sensitive and imaginative playing of works by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. And what could constitute more poignant night music than Vincent Peirani’s “Choral” – a modal piece, evocative of the pipe organ - so introspective, calm and suave. Vincent Peirani’s profound musicianship and aesthetic sense are what put him in a class on his own. Peirani and François Salque’s performance lent the nocturnal concert a classy, sophisticated aura.

Trilogy (photo:Maxim Reider)
If concert-goers attending “Breaking Bad” at 23:00 on February 5th were expecting to end the day with a soothing musical “night-cap’, they we presented with a wake-up call to a new concert experience, in which classical music can exist alongside popular-, jazz- and film music. The Belgian-based ensemble “Trilogy” was formed in 2011 by classical violinists Hrachya Avanesyan, Lorenzo Gatto and Yossif Ivanov. The three brilliant artists achieved overnight recognition with their first video “Pulp Fiction”. Addressing the audience, Avanesyan referred to the program as a “summary of the ensemble’s work”. At the Eilat event, the violinists were joined by Alexander Gurning (piano, electronic keyboard) and Eddie Francisque (percussion) in a performance of verve and high amplification! The program opened with Trilogy’s transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto in a-minor RV522 for three violins and piano Their setting of the Bizet-Giraud “Carmen” Suite was given a sympathetic reading, with John Williams’ dejected and melancholic “Schindler’s List” theme empathic and highly sensitive. The artists’ sense of music as a game to be played was reflected in the ensemble’s arrangement of “Man with a Harmonica” from Ennio Morricone’s 1968 soundtrack to “Once upon a Time in the West”. If in Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no.1 (1869) they offered a mix of mellow playing with Roma-gypsy temperament, the artists’ pulsating, energetic, revved up performance of Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” (1942) prepared listeners for the energy level of these young players would accelrate as the night wore on. Later items on the program featured such pieces as a medley from “Daft Punk” and music from “Pulp Fiction” in performances of devil-may-care, unleashed energy and undaunted pluck, as the players let their hair down to show festival-goers what classical musicians are made of!

Exciting, enriching and of a high standard, the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival drew large crowds to its events. Leonid Rozenberg has been the festival’s general and artistic director since its inception 11 years ago. Concerts were introduced by Yossi Schiffmann. As in former years, the staff of the Dan Hotel (manager: Mr. Lior Mucznik) went out of their way to make concert-goers welcome, adding festival sparkle to the four days.

1 comment:

mark lawrence said...

I'm such ardent lover of such interesting festivals! This event seems to be fabulous. Thanks for the information. I am looking for similar events at local event space NYC as would like to attend those fests in my spare time.