Tuesday, October 2, 2018

David Feldman and Uri Bracha perform music of Dowland, Purcell, the Beatles, Miki Gavrielov...and Sting... at the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival

Photo: Yosefa Zehavi

The 54th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival (Israel) took place from September 29th to October 1st 2018. On September 29th, this writer attended “Elizabethan Love Songs and Songs by Sting, the Beatles and Miki Gavrielov” in the Crypt nestling below the 12th century Benedictine Crusader Church, which is set in a magical, exotic garden in the lower quarter of the town of Abu Gosh. Countertenor David Feldman was joined by guitarist, composer and arranger Uri Bracha.


A singer of international renown, Feldman has performed with orchestras and vocal ensembles.  In January 2012 he made his operatic debut at the Basel Opera House in a production of Henry Purcell’s “The Fairy Queen”, conducted by Andrea Marcon. With Profeti della Quinta he has recorded two CDs, presenting Salamone Rossi’s Hebrew synagogue vocal music and Italian madrigals. Opening with a selection of John Dowland lute songs, his warmth of sound and natural flair for dynamic change gave the songs, each with its message of the suffering- and uncertainty of love, true Dowland grace, contemplation and nostalgia, his engaging in vibrato only there for emphasis and embellishment. Expressive yet understated, Feldman allows the music and texts to speak for themselves:

“Where night's black bird her sad infamy sins,

There let me live forlorn.” (Flow, my tears)

Accompanying these small jewels, Uri Bracha’s elegant, attentive playing reflected the texts and their moods. His polished performance of “Sir John Smith, his Almain”, a piece dating from the 1590s, highlighted both the subtlety and sophistication of Dowland’s treatment of the musical matter of this dance.


Feldman’s singing of Henry Purcell’s “Music for a While”, a true stroke of genius, from the incidental music to John Dryden's “Oedipus”, was both mellifluous (in the outer sections) and brimful of word painting, as the Fury Alecto is being beguiled so that the snakes “drop from her head’ and the whip falls from her hands”.


Greece and its nature were the inspiration for Uri Bracha’s evocative guitar solo, “Vikos Canyon”, a work of imagination, abstract ideas, harmonic freedom and introspection. A challenging work to perform, Bracha is comfortable with its technical complexities. His compositions generally present a unique blend of music of the various cultures in Israel and in the Middle East with Brazilian music and jazz.


The rest of the program struck many “familiar notes” in the audience at the Crypt and people felt free to hum along with the songs, beginning with the early English ballad, “Greensleeves”. With the repertoire that followed, the jazzy/multi-cultural aspects of Bracha’s art became more prominent. He and Feldman gave their own appealingly fresh, upbeat and imaginative renditions of three Beatles songs. And then, a free and touching presentation of “Roxanne”, Sting’s tender, sentimental song of 1977, the text addressing Roxanne, a hooker. Where does Sting fit into this festival program? In 2006, in collaboration with Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov, Sting released “Songs from the Labyrinth”, an album featuring music of John Dowland!


From Sting, the artists moved to the songfulness and sweet nostalgia of Israeli folk/rock composer and singer Miki Gavrielov, many of whose songs were performed by the legendary Arik Einstein.


Concluding a program of much variety, David Feldman and Uri Bracha performed Dowland’s “Come Away”, reminding the audience that, only an hour earlier, they had started out with some of the composer’s typically Elizabethan songs, so delicate and poetic, yet still clear in meaning to today’s listener:

“Lilies on the river's side
And fair
Flow'rs new-blown
Desire no beauties but their own
Ornament is nurse of pride
Love's delight:
Haste then sweet love our wished flight.”



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