Sunday, May 20, 2018

Flautist Roy Amotz joins members of the Carmel Quartet for an evening of salon music at the Jerusalem Music Centre

Roy Amotz,Rachel Ringelstein,Yonah Zur,Tami Waterman (photo:Chana Avni)

“The Magic Flute”, Concert No.4 of the Carmel Quartet’s 2017-2018 Strings and More Series, deviated from the usual format of the Carmel Quartet explained concert series. First of all, the quartet’s director and violist Dr. Yoel Greenberg was not present, with guest flautist Roy Amotz making up the quartet and violinist Yonah Zur, joined by Rachel Ringelstein (on viola this time) and ‘cellist Tami Waterman, took on the role of guiding the audience through the concert’s works. Roy Amotz also gave a short explanation on the Baroque flute and its modern counterpart. This writer attended the English-language event on May 16th 2018 at the Jerusalem Music Centre, Mishkenot Sha’ananim in the magical Yemin Moshe quarter.


Yonah Zur’s commentary focused on the role of the flute and the stylistic developments accompanying it in chamber music from the time of J.S.Bach to that of W.A.Mozart. The concert opened with Roy Amotz’ reflective and finely chiselled playing of the Prelude from Bach’s Partita in A-minor for solo flute BWV 1013, played on the Baroque flute. Zur then spoke of German viol player Carl Friedrich Abel’s connection with the Bach family, from when he went to stay with them as a 13-year-old, to when he moved to London in 1758, where he and the youngest Bach son Johann Christian were court musicians, establishing their own concert series, providing a stage for their own works and those of others. Relevant to this concert program was the fact that Abel knew J.J.Quantz, who wrote extensively for the flute. Quantz was in the employ of Frederick the Great: the king himself was a keen amateur flautist. In his writing, Abel rejected the academic Bach approach to music in favour of the more instantly accessible galant style, its charm and melodiousness obvious in the artists’ playing of Abel’s Flute Quartet in B-flat major op.8 no.2, charming salon music of no great drama or complexity, but, in the hands of fine players, performed with colour and balance...certainly, music to delight.


Arriving in London with his father, eight-year-old Mozart took lessons with Abel and J.C.Bach. Years later, at age 22 in Mannheim, Mozart wrote to his father that he “couldn’t bear” the flute. This statement might have been made when he was struggling to fulfill a commission from a wealthy Dutch amateur musician for numerous flute works. Who knows if the composer was also not put off by the playing of some of the flautists he heard around him - the single-keyed instrument of his time demanded much skill to be played in tune. Yet, Mozart wrote well for the instrument, as we heard in the two of his quartets performed at the Carmel Quartet concert, the artists devoting attention to dynamics, shape and small gestures, as Amotz led with natural grace. It is clear that Mozart endowed the flute with concerto-like prominence in the opening movement of the Allegro of Flute Quartet in D-major K.285, to be followed by the especially alluring Adagio, its flute role of Elysian beauty played with poignancy against the pizzicato strings. Referring to Flute Quartet in C-major K.258b, composed a mere three years after the D-major, Yonah Zur reminded the audience that Mozart had mainly been known as an opera composer in his lifetime and that this work indeed bears some operatic traits. In the opening Allegro, the players’ polished playing brought out its moods and small dramas, topped off by Amotz’ breathtaking delicacy of sound. In the second movement, a theme and six variations, there was much personal utterance, as the variations highlighted different instruments and their players, perhaps as opera characters performing solos and duets. Zur spoke of the work as being “sophisticated with a veneer of simplicity”.


And to the Haydn brothers -  Joseph, who became a court composer and Michael, who ended up in Salzburg as an organist. Michael Haydn, writing in the galant style, was close to Mozart, although it seems there was also some competition between them. The artists performed Michael Haydn’s small Flute Quartet in D-major P117, its vivacious and sparkling opening Andante con variazione characterized by the decidedly challenging flute part. The Rondo presto assai movement, bristling with good cheer and whimsical comments, abounded in Haydnesque humour. Joseph Haydn, always aware of what music was in demand, wrote the Trios Hob. IV:1-4 (1794-5) for two flutes (or flute, violin) and ‘cello (London Trios) at a time when the flute was extraordinarily popular among amateurs on the bustling London musical scene. Flute Trio in G-major Hob. IV:2, (performed here by Zur, Amotz and Waterman), proved that replacing the second flute with a violin brought out the work’s inventiveness in no lesser way, its ebullience challenging the technique of all the players most agreeably.


In repertoire ranging from early- to contemporary music, Jerusalem-born Roy Amotz performs worldwide as a soloist and ensemble member. He is currently principal flute of the Geneva Camerata and a member of the Meitar Ensemble, an Israeli group performing and recording modern music. Yonah Zur’s commentary throughout the evening was articulate, informative and definitely entertaining.


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