Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Israel Contemporary Players, conducted by Fabian Panisello, sign out of the 2015-2016 season at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Fabian Panisello (
The event concluding the Israel Contemporary Players’ 25th Discoveries concert season presented four works of composers from four different countries. Argentinian composer Fabián Panisello conducted the concert. Soloists were Yael Barolsky (violin) and Gan Lev (saxophone). This writer attended the concert on July 2nd 2016 in the auditorium of the Herta and Paul Amir building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

The concert opened with “Release” for twelve instruments by Tel Aviv-born composer and conductor Nizan Leibovich (b. 1969). The title refers to the piece’s theme of release from a state of extreme physical or mental tension. The original version of the work was written for the New York-based NOW Ensemble, which premiered it in 2013. The second version, fuller in instrumentation and lengthier, was premiered at the 2015 Boston Composers Conference. The latter version was what was played in the Tel Aviv concert. The basic idea of the piece’s scoring was the grouping and regrouping of instruments throughout the work, which in the composer’s words “enables the development of specific musical parameters, mainly the sound quality”. Beginning minimally with the motif of the half tone, melodic ideas appear and the listener finds himself absorbed in the delicate sound-world Leibovich is creating, as it escalates, offering jazzy chords on piano joined by double bass, then by brass. With the build-up of texture, there is much individual utterance of instruments, small gestures joining- or set against constant rhythms or breaking down into joint homophonic gestures. Leibovich’s canvas bustles with colours and a myriad of ideas, all drawn together in elegant sensibility. Nizan Leibovich is currently musical director of the Pittsburgh Philharmonia Orchestra and artistic director of the Israeli Music Festival in Jerusalem.

No new face to the Israel Contemporary Players or to Israeli audiences, Argentinean composer, conductor and educator Fabián Panisello (b. 1963) was back to conduct and present a new work “Le Malentendu” (The Misunderstanding) (2016). An opera to a libretto of Juan Lucas, it is based on Albert Camus’ 1943 play “Le Malentendu”, a sinister story of destruction and horror. In his opera, Panisello uses instrumental interludes scored for ensemble and electronics to connect scene to scene, with the interludes also painting a portrait of each of the five characters in the story in sounds. We were presented with the vivid and contrasted set of pieces, their moods ranging from the frenetic to the exotic, a kaleidoscope of colour and fine solos – the electronics were also given a decent solo. Complex and sophisticated as it is, the music is intelligible, gregarious and intelligent, appealing directly to the senses. Panisello’s feel for the aesthetics of the instrumental ensemble makes for active, adventurous listening. Fabián Panisello is the founder and director of PluralEnsemble (Spain).

Born in Japan in 1977, Dai Fujikura moved to the UK at age 15. Receiving many commissions, he is one of Europe’s most significant voices today, with his works performed in his native Japan and worldwide. Cooperating with artists of other disciplines, he is known to be a fine improviser, collaborating in the experimental pop/jazz field. In “Fluid Calligraphy” for violin and optional video (2010), the art of calligraphy meets the sound world of the solo violin (Yael Barolsky). Watching the mesmerizing play of twisting fibres on the screen above the stage, one becomes aware of the fact that the musical agenda and moving fibres are not synchronized. Barolsky’s playing was personal, sensitive and engrossing as she set the scene with the score’s myriad of high notes, harmonics, harmonics and glissandi etc. to create an uneasy, otherworldly and austere soundscape. I found my eyes leaving the screen in order to savour every small gesture of Barolsky’s very moving performance.

The program and the Israel Contemporary Players’ 2015-2016 concert season concluded with a work by Italian composer Franco Donatoni (1927-2000). Donatoni composed using the aesthetic of transformation. From the late 1970s, he had expanded the technique to that of mapping entire pieces onto each other to create new works. “Hot” for saxophone solo and six players (1989) had its origins in “Alamari” for ‘cello, bass and piano (1983). The work was commissioned by the French Association of Saxophonists and dedicated to saxophonist Daniel Kientzy, who also premiered it. The composer described the piece as some kind of “imaginary jazz” and, in fact, it begins with the rhythm section – piano bass and percussion – in lightweight textures making for an agreeable, jazzy feel. Its rolling bass line punctuated by ghostly block chords on the piano (Maria Nikitin) emerges pleasingly. The brass enters (muted trumpet and trombone) dueting in parallel seconds. When the saxophone (Gan Lev) enters, it is paired with the clarinet. Moving from tenor to sopranino saxophone Lev carried his role off with pizzazz. This piece suits Lev’s musical personality and upbeat, easeful technique. However, other players contributed moments of brilliance - those including Tibi Zeiger (clarinet), Nadav Meisel (bass) as well as some excellent percussion.

Maestro Panisello directed with articulate elegance. The ICP’s fine line-up of players and high standard of ensemble-playing never disappoint and this concert was no exception.

Violinist Yael Barolsky (


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