Sunday, July 8, 2018

New music is alive and kicking in Israel: the Meitar Ensemble and friends perform their final concert for the 2017-2018 season in Tel Aviv

Photo: Culiner Productions
The Meitar Ensemble concluded its 2017-2018 concert season with a festive event at the Israel Conservatory of Music Tel Aviv on June 30th 2018. Founded in 2004 by artistic director Amit Dolberg, the Tel Aviv-based ensemble has commissioned and premiered over 200 works. The Meitar Ensemble also runs a unique educational youth program - the Tedarim Project - offering young musicians engaging in performance, conducting and composing an opportunity to learn, explore and perform new music and on the highest level. Some of the young project musicians took part in this concert alongside more established artists. Also taking part were participants of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s Contemporary Music Workshop.


The program opened with Menachem Wiesenberg’s “Entrapped Bird” (1998) a setting of three poems by Yair Hurwitz for voice, piano, violin and clarinet (or oboe). The poems, from the poet’s last volume, all deal with his impending death. The entrapped bird is a metaphor of the poet’s soul as imprisoned in his sick body, waiting, in a sense, to be freed. In the composer’s own words: “I have tried to portray this dark and very painful atmosphere in my music, using a chromatic and expressive musical language.” Amit Dolberg (piano), Noam Lelior Gal (violin) and Roy Cohen (clarinet) gave personal expression to the work’s fragile, filigree textures, its reflective, intimate nature and to its many splendid solo sections. Dalia Besprozvany, with her delicate, articulate and understated singing, added subtle meaning to this mood piece.


We then heard “Scattergories” for flute, clarinet, bassoon, piano, violin, ‘cello and double bass by Omer Barash (b.1995). The ensemble was directed by young conductor Tom Karni. As its title implies, the work opened with a series of small gestures, punctuated by chords, then developing into a shifting, active screen texture, its fabric consisting of individual utterances. With much independent expression on the part of the players, the work moves through various moods and instrumental effects, on to a dialogue carried out in parallel semitones, then to a drone; the scattered chords continue to appear. The work tails off in a low repetitive note on the piano, taking time to fade away. A student at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Omer Barash is pursuing his MMus degree in Composition under Prof. Ari Ben-Shabetai and his BMus in piano under Prof. Eitan Globerson. He was in attendance at the concert.


Premiered at the event was Yonatan Ron’s “Klaustrum” for string trio, composed end of 2015-January 2016. It was performed by Marco Fusi-violin, Moshe Aharonov-viola and Yoni Gotlibovich-’cello. The composer explains the agenda of his work as written at a time he was involved in "large-scale gradual transitions" within musical textures. The piece “starts with a cluster of a very strong Middle Eastern identity, from which I continue to develop the very same pitch material until it slowly reaches a point at which it explodes.” A piece composed as an almost uninterrupted continuum, it presents repetitions each embodying some slight variation; there are delicate “insect” textures, intense unison passages, glissando motifs and sections of flageolets interrupted by sudden outbursts, etc. The composer refers to each musical idea as “begging to emancipate itself”, to finally be freed by the end of the work. In finely balanced collaboration, the players gave the work a reading that was dedicated, sensitive and transparent. The composer, who was present at the concert, is presently a student at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague.


We then heard “In Carne ed Ossa”, a quintet by Michele Sanna (Italy). This was the work that won the 2018 Matan Givol Competition for Composers. Amit Dolberg spoke of the competition, now in its third year, as a fitting way to remember violinist Matan Givol, who had been a member of the Meitar Ensemble. "In Carne ed Ossa" (In Flesh and Bone) was chosen out of 60 scores that were submitted to the competition from 24 countries. A work of lively, sometimes frenetic gestures, of intensity, of pared-down otherworldly moments, of timbral variety and some effects, its soundscape is characterized by the intermittent, shadowy use of a soft mallet striking the strings of the piano (Simone Walther). The piano also features in several of the work’s lyrical moments. Conducted by Ilan Volkov, the performance, profound and reflective, gave splendid expression to Sanna’s gripping and soul-searching score.


Following the intermission, Maestro Ilan Volkov conducted Italian composer Fausto Romitelli’s “Professor Bad Trip, Lessons I,II,III”, a work scored for eight players and electronics. The “Professor Bad Trip” cycle (1998—2000), blending distorted colorations of acoustic- and electric instruments as well as accessories, such as the mirliton and harmonica, was inspired by Henri Michaux’s writings under the influence of psychedelic drugs and by the comic artist Gianluca Lerici a.k.a. Professor Bad Trip and his psychedelic cartoons. The three separate movements recreate a hallucinatory sound world in which post-spectralism blends with psychedelia. The unique style that Romitelli developed is characterized by drones, glissandi and amplification with distortion, the combination of these elements resulting in highly expressive content of both great eloquence and violent sonic utterances of considerable formal complexity. Lesson I, doused with electric guitar, offering a rich timbral mix, is an exciting piece. Percussionist Lior Eldad’s skill and competence shone throughout. The music eventually becomes calm and the instrumentalists gradually exit, leaving only electronic “airport” sounds to bring the piece to an end. Lesson II is at times no less intense than its predecessor (its potency and rhythmic vehemence are endorsed by electric guitar-Nadav Lev and bass guitar-Dennis Sobolev); the piece also offers a virtuosic and poignant ‘cello solo (Yoni Gotlibovich), some breathy effects and eerie moments of spacey high string flageolet sounds, then to die down cushioned in a velvety screen of sound coloured by the knell of a haunting gong. Lesson III, bristling with effects and repetitions, sometimes referring to a kind of “tonal centre”, presents trippy sensations as well as stark, buzzy electronic sounds and strident guitar sounds. Flautist Roy Amotz moves from piccolo to flute to mirliton (a small, nasal-sounding instrument, its sound produced by a vibrating membrane) and back again. “Professor Bad Trip”, with its taste for the deformed and the artificial, for rock and electro-acoustic treatment of sound, certainly takes the listener along for the dare-devil ride, and an invigorating, shocking and spectacular trip it certainly was, too!


Drawing a large crowd, the Tel Aviv concert was a celebration of fascinating music and very fine, dedicated and discerning performance on the part of the musicians.

Dalia Besprozvany (Culiner Productions)
Roy Amotz  (Culiner Productions)

Moshe Aharonov (Culiner Productiobs)

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