Monday, April 3, 2017

"Bach and Telemann" - the Barrocade Ensemble opens its portfolio at the second Bach in Jerusalem Festival

Yizhar Karshon,Tali Goldberg,Amit Tiefenbrunn,Rachel Ringelstein (photo:Nitzan Shorer)

“Bach and Telemann”, an event of the second Bach in Jerusalem Festival, was performed by the Barrocade Ensemble. It took place in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem International YMCA on March 22nd, 2017.  Founded in 2007 by viola da gamba player Amit Tiefenbrunn, the Israeli ensemble’s musical director, Barrocade mostly performs without a conductor, at other times, collaborating with renowned conductors. Its overseas appearances include Purcell’s semi opera “The Fairy Queen” at Wigmore Hall, London.

The Jerusalem concert opened with the Sinfonia from J.S.Bach’s Cantata No.156 “Ich steh’ mit einem Fuss im Grabe” (I stand with one foot in the grave), one of the 30-or-so Bach cantatas focusing on the subject of death, with oboist Yigal Kaminka luring the listener into the elegiac solo with his richly mellifluous and expressive tone. Then, on recorder, Kaminka partnered with gambist Amit Tiefenbrunn to perform Telemann’s Concerto for recorder, viola da gamba, strings and b.c. TWV 52:a1 in playing rewarding in its unfussiness, energy, excitement and precision, its sympathetic commenting and dueting, these topped with the occasional recorder flourish. The artists indeed gave the stage to Telemann, himself a professional recorder player, addressing his bent for unusual scoring, his wit and emotion, but also the personal expression of the concerto, 

In Bach’s aria “Ich folge dir gleichfalls” (I follow you likewise) from the St. John Passion, soprano Yeela Avital’s sympathetic reading of the text, one of conviction, went hand in glove with Genevieve Blanchard’s eloquent obbligato playing of the Baroque transverse flute. Then, this time with viol obbligato (Tiefenbrunn) in “Es ist vollbracht” (It is accomplished) one of the St. John Passion’s most dramatic (and gorgeous!) movements, countertenor Alon Harari presented the aria’s weighty and tragic text with powerful emotion and impact, his melismatic passages and descending melodic lines met by the timbrally low and sonorous gamba. With Tali Goldberg shaping and streamlining the violin obbligato part (referred to by Yehudi Menuhin as the “most beautiful piece of music ever written for the violin”) of “Erbarme dich, mein Gott” (St. Matthew Passion) Harari’s focused, ample and rich singing in all registers gave deep pathos to its message of remorse.
“Have mercy, Lord, for my tears’ sake!
Look at me, my heart and eyes weep to Thee bitterly.”

For “Schafe können sicher weiden” (Sheep may safely graze) from Bach’s Cantata 208, Kaminka and Blanchard (recorder and flute) matched and blended well in pastoral tranquillity as Yeela Avital, with just a touch of embellishment, presented its shades of meaning. This was followed by the vibrant “Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten” (We hasten with weak yet eager steps) from Cantata 78 and sung by Avital and Harari, the aria’s underlying pulsating instrumental part evoking the urgency of the steps somewhat jazzy in concept (double bass: Ofir Ben-Zion.)

In J.S.Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5, Tali Goldberg and Genevieve Blanchard showed that violin and flute, different as they are, could find a like-minded and agreeable musical language in which to interact. In this work, the first solo harpsichord concerto in history, Bach’s foray into the genre never ceases to take the listener’s breath away: Yizhar Karshon’s virtuosic playing of the sparkling cascading textures did just that as he showed the audience through Bach’s harmonic process with seeming effortlessness! In the pared-down Affetuoso movement, the three soloists engaged in the sublime and sombre intimacy of the piece, to be followed by the gigue of the final Allegro, rich in fugal textures, offered to the audience with joy, exhilaration and good taste.

With Heitor Villa Lobos’ admiration of J.S.Bach, referring to him as a “mediator among races”, Bachianos Brasileras No.5, at the conclusion of the program, did connect with the evening’s agenda. Yeela Avital’s creamy, heart-on-sleeve singing of the sensual, lush, long-spun theme of this Aria, the melody temporarily taken over by the viola (Yael Patish), the Aria’s central section, more folk-connected and somewhat more agitated, takes its inspiration from a poem of Brazilian writer Ruth Valadares Corrêa, depicting the rise of the moon. Avital fused together these two sound worlds in beautifully sculpted, finely detailed and unblemished singing. Barrocade sent the audience home with Blanchard’s graceful, buoyant flute solo of the Badinerie from Bach’s Suite No.2 in B-minor BWV 1067.

Very polished. Most delightful!



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