Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"Berlin-Tel Aviv", tenor Assaf Kacholi's first solo album

Photo:Yonatan Birenbaum
Tenor Assaf Kacholi’s solo repertoire spans several genres, from opera to oratorio, from Lieder to Israeli songs. cabaret music and Italian love songs. Born in Israel, Kacholi has been living in Berlin since 2002. In 2007, he joined the highly successful German classical-crossover “Adoro” Ensemble. “Berlin-Tel Aviv”, his first solo album, was released in September 2017 on the GEMA label. His own personal choice of pieces, the disc offers an assortment of songs covering a number of genres, each accompanied on either guitar or piano.

The earliest of the pieces on the CD is John Dowland’s lute ayre “Flow My Tears”, with Shani Inbar’s guitar accompaniment indeed a satisfactory substitute for the original lute and Kacholi reflecting Dowland’s gloom in such dejected and contradictory utterances as
“Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world's despite”.

Two items of the disc provide an all-to-brief glimpse into a genre close to Kacholi’s heart and one that sits very well with his voice - the Romantic German Lied. In “Ständchen” (Serenade), dating from the last months of Schubert's life, Kacholi and pianist Efrat Levy take time to re-create the limpid music of yearning coloured with Schubert’s major/minor fragility, as the serenader invites her lover to join her on a nocturnal rendezvous. Kacholi’s reading of Clara Schumann’s “Die stille Lotosblume” (The Quiet Lotus Blossom), composed in 1842 (lyrics: Emanuel Geibel) is a beautifully controlled mood study, as the silvery, moonlit poem is presented with poetic lyricism. One senses that Kacholi is very comfortable with the German language. Moving with ease into the musical theatre mode of Kurt Weill, Kacholi strikes a fine balance between the bitter-sweet intimacy of a text telling of betrayal and the political message of “Wie lange noch?” (How long before it’s over?) to lyrics of Walter Mehring. And, on a different note, his debonair singing, evoking Berlin allure in the suave, leisurely foxtrot of “Berlin in Licht” (Berlin in Light).

The salon songs of Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) envelop the human voice with natural, Italian warmth, having been on the playlists of such opera singers as Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso, as well as being an important part of Pavarotti’s repertoire. Kacholi’s singing of Tosti’s songs engages in their easeful melodiousness, their lush elegance and gentle sentimentality, as he conveys their ideal of love and its niche in our dreams. Especially evocative are his two reflective renditions of Nino Rota’s “What Is a Youth?”, to superbly played accompaniments - the first on guitar (Shani Inbar), with a second rendition together with Orit Wolf on piano -  the latter from a live performance. Wolf and Kacholi’s fine collaboration is also heard in George (and Ira) Gershwin’s “By Strauss”, their quick-witted and entertaining performance articulate, jaunty and certainly “light of foot”.

Assaf Kacholi’s ties with Israeli song repertoire, both emotional and profound, filter through generously in his singing of those on the disc. We hear: him and guitarist Yonatan Birenbaum’s exotic and velvet-like performance of Noam Sheriff’s “Thou art Beautiful” (Song of Songs) and their beautifully crafted and moving interpretation of  “My Little Bird” (lyrics: Pinchas Sadeh, music: Oded Lerer). The many facets and colours of Assaf Kacholi’s voice also play out effectively in his evocative and caressing performance of “Lullaby” (lyrics: Natan Alterman, music: Sasha Argov), all the more fetching for Orit Wolf’s poignant accompaniment:
“Now the road itself will sleep
For the end is near…
And the king has lost his crown
As the fools appear.
Rest your head, the boat, the brook,
Tranquil lies the Persian souk,
Turn down the lights, the dark is lush...
And quiet, quiet...hush…”                Translation: Achinoam Nini

In recording “Berlin-Tel Aviv”, Assaf Kacholi opens his personal music portfolio to us. His richly endowed voice and warmth of sound invite the listener to listen again, to connect with his musicality and sincerity. The disc is also a statement of personal conflict, a searching of identity, of Assaf Kacholi’s confidence to say: “These are my songs”.



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