Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Te Deum - The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra hosts Ensemble Caprice, music director: Matthias Maute (Montreal, Canada), at the opening concert of the JBO's 33rd season


Noam Schuss (violin),David Shemer(harpsichord) (Yinon Fuchs)

Maestro Matthias Maute (Yoel Levy

The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra's 2021-2022 season opened with a flourish!  The plan to perform "Te Deum" together with Ensemble Caprice (Canada) had finally become a reality, having twice been shelved due to Covid-19 restrictions. The auditorium of the Jerusalem International YMCA was alive with excitement and anticipation on October 14th 2021, with members of both ensembles seated together on the stage. Joining them for two of the works was the Shahar Choir (music director Gila Brill). Soloists were sopranos Daniela Skorka and Tal Ganor, mezzo-soprano Maya Amir, tenor Yonatan Suissa, bass Yair Polishook, Noam Schuss-violin, Andrea Stewart-'cello and Alexis Basque (trumpet). Maestros Matthias Maute (Caprice) and David Shemer (JBO) each conducted works. 


No less festive was the line-up of works on the program. As in most concerts of works by great Baroque composers, Georg Philipp.Telemann was well represented here. First up was Telemann's prestigious Latin setting of Psalm 72 "Deus judicium tuum" TWV 7:7 (Give your judgement, O God, to the king) a work associated with the composer's sojourn in Paris in 1737, during which time he celebrated musical triumphs in the French metropolis. Among the finest vocal works in Telemann’s oeuvre, the motet is written in a French-influenced style (hence the text here sung in the French pronunciation of Latin) with a highly varied mixture of full instrumental accompaniments and graceful smaller instrumental complements, the latter catering to the vocal solos. Conducted by Maute, the three resplendent choral movements frame a richly-coloured succession of demanding solo movements, the latter performed with insight, fine detail and distinctive expression by Skorka, Ganor, Suissa and Polishook, the Shahar Choir's mellow signature sound and blend subtle and agreeable. A rarely-performed work, possibly never performed before on these shores, is Telemann's Concerto for trumpet, violin, 'cello and strings TWV 53:D5. Strange bedfellows? Indeed, Telemann does not claim that the solos in a triple concerto are necessarily equal in timbre or volume, let alone similar in character. Some authorities today regard the work, probably composed before 1715, as really a violin concerto, with trumpet and 'cello obligato parts. In fact, the 'cello (Andrea Stewart) has only two solo passages. In keeping with the fact that the valve trumpet was only invented in 1813, it was a real treat hearing and seeing Basque performing the role on a natural trumpet with ease and good intonation, indeed, creating the illusion that playing this instrument is a breeze!  As to the highly challenging violin part, abounding in double stops, high-passage-work and fast, long passages, JBO leader Noam Schuss handled it with good judgement and aplomb, its unrelenting virtuosity stemming from the fact that much of the work was strongly influenced (or perhaps written!) by Johann Georg Pisendel, the leading German violinist of his day and concertmaster of the Dresden Hofkapelle.


With David Shemer conducting from the harpsichord, the Caprice-JBO instrumentalists performed the Chaconne for orchestra which concludes Jean Philippe Rameau's opera "Les Indes galantes" (The Amorous Indies). Festive, varied and grand, the piece showcased the rich timbres of the ensemble, including its fine assembly of winds, as Maestro Shemer's direction called attention to the fact that Rameau was a revolutionary in dance, not just  in music.


This concert was also the setting for a unique world premiere - three songs from Jaap Nico Hamburger's "Songs in Times of Honour" to poems of Else Lasker-Schüler. In the past, Hamburger has written works for Caprice, but for this commission, he was requested to compose the work to a Jewish text. Having perused many texts, from ancient to modern, Hamburger chose those of German-Jewish poet Lasker-Schüler.  Lasker-Schüler moved to Jerusalem in 1940, where she became a prominent figure on the local cultural scene. The three songs we heard are scored for soprano and Baroque instruments. (Some of the remaining four of the cycle call for symphony orchestra.)  Soprano Daniela Skorka and the instrumentalists displayed close teamwork in presenting these three thought-provoking-, indeed, disquieting mood pieces. Opening with the eerie sounds of violin and percussion, "Meine Mutter" (My Mother) reflects the poet's pain and longing for her mother, "the great angel who walked at my side". In "Abschied" (Leave-taking), a woman awaits her lover, her anguish intertwining with the rhythms of a dance that will not be danced, an effective and sinister collage of sound, with Skorka adding a few touches of tambourine sound to the effect. "Ich Weiss" (I Know), coloured in tranquil, veiled dissonances, shows Lasker-Schüler ruminating on her own death, the death of a poet. She died in Jerusalem in 1940.

"Pale and paler my dreams grow

 In the volumes of my rhymes" (English translation: Robert P. Newton).

In this third haunting and powerful piece, Hamburger gives its final say to a solo viola. A fine choice of texts, Lasker-Schüler's poems speak in a direct and articulate voice. No less articulate, Hamburger's music, modal in language, is not overloaded, not opaque, as he paints with delicate brush strokes. Skorka addresses each notion with finely-shaped gestures and sensitivity, her outstanding performance reflecting deep enquiry into each of the poems. Born in Holland, Jaap Nico Hamburger today lives in Canada. After spending many years working as a cardiologist, he now devotes his time to writing music. In attendance at the premiere, the composer, it seems, still addresses matters of the heart.


Concluding the event was Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Te Deum" in D major H146, c.1692. The "Te Deum" (We praise thee, O God) text was usually enlisted for works written to celebrate some military victory. In fact, Charpentier set the text six times. The H146 “Te Deum” is unquestionably Charpentier's best known work, especially since its “Prélude en rondeau” was made the Eurovision signature tune. The grand motet proved highly suitable for the combined forces offered by the Caprice-JBO ensemble: Charpentier here uses a much larger instrumental band than had any previous French composer of church music, this being his only setting employing a “military band”, i.e trumpets and kettledrums. Maestro Maute took fullest advantage of the work's contrasting of ceremonial brilliance of full orchestral and choral forces with the pleasing blend of the solo voices accompanied by just a few instruments, integrating the work's daring harmonies and conflicting dramatic elements with its devotional dimension. The audience delighted in the performance's moments of delicately restrained lyricism, both in vocal sections and in instrumental duetting. It also delighted in the joyous extravaganza of first-class brass playing. 


Born in Ebingen, Germany, Matthias Maute has carved out an impressive international reputation  only as one of the great recorder and baroque flute virtuosos of his generation but also as a composer and conductor.

Jaap Nico Hamburger (Brent Calis)

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Israel Rishon LeZion Orchestra opens the 2021-2022 concert season with works of Mozart and Dvořák. Conductor/pianist - David Greilsammer

Maestro David Greilsammer (Miri Shamir)


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was never well-behaved enough to please the church – the Archbishop of Salzburg’s steward once kicked Mozart down the stairs. Yet, Mozart "still leads all the charts. Over 12,000 books have been devoted to his life and his music…he makes plants grow better, cures epilepsy and manic-depression, and even makes your baby smarter", writes Hermione Lai (Interlude, September 6th, 2021). One of the Mozart buffs of the current international music scene is pianist/conductor David Greilsammer, who both soloed and conducted at the Israel Rishon LeZion Orchestra's opening concert of the 2021-2022 season. This writer attended the event at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center on October 10th, 2021.


The program opened with the brief Overture to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera "Cosi fan tutte". The beginning Andante section, juxtaposing full orchestral chords with a lyrical oboe melody, also splicing in a brief allusion to a phrase Don Alfonso sings near the end of the opera, is followed by fleet and vibrant woodwind exchanges in the Presto section, creating an air of electric expectancy and providing a delectable start to an evening of music.  


In 1784, Mozart wrote six magnificent, ground-breaking concertos, most of which were intended for performances before Viennese subscription audiences, who clearly enjoyed the concerts. The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.17 in G major K.453 is one of the few not originally composed for Mozart himself to premiere. It was intended for one of his pupils, Barbara von Ployer, whose father, Gottfried Ignaz von Ployer, a Viennese agent of the Salzburg court, hired an orchestra for the first performance. Sometimes dismissed as not being very grand, due to its light orchestration, employing neither trumpets, drums nor clarinets, it is, nevertheless, clear that Mozart's orchestration has transcended his time! And it is the very transparency of Mozart's writing here that emerged so delightfully articulate in the hands of the Rishon LeZion Orchestra players, with Greilsammer weaving cascades of arpeggios through the orchestral weave of the serene opening Allegro movement. Following lovely oboe and flute utterances issuing in the tranquil second movement (Andante), Greilsammer sculpts the essence and meaning of each of its sections with both strength and humility, his deft dexterity masterfully illuminating the sensitive and personal hallmark of the movement. For the Allegretto movement's glittering rococo set of variations, Greilsammer's rich palette of colours gave rise to Mozartian elegance, joy and whimsy. As to the cadenzas, here was Greilsammer at his most original, skilfully dovetailing motifs of the concerto with inspiration of the moment - a series of clusters, slivers of an Israeli song, etc.- a veritable stream of consciousness and presented to the audience with the wink of an eye. I think Mozart, known for his humour, his spontaneity and, indeed, his ability to improvise, would have enjoyed those moments, being well entertained by them, as was the audience at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.


So much has been written about the genesis of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 “From the New World” (1893), written when the composer was director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, at this time taking a great interest in Negro and Indian music. Basically, all the melodies in the symphony are Dvořák's own. In fact, European audiences found the symphony to be as Bohemian as anything Dvořák had ever written, with Kurt Masur referring to it as "a great tragic symphony written on the theme of homesickness". Addressing the work's finest details, Maestro Greilsammer brought out its gorgeous melodiousness and vivid orchestral colour, its emotional span running from tender lyricism to towering intensity, with Dvořák's imposing tutti and marvellously poignant solos drawn together in a performance that breathed freshness and the joy of music-making. For me, one of the work's most moving elements of the "New World" is the Largo movement’s cor anglais theme accompanied by muted strings, here played in all its nostalgia and mystery by Michael Dressler.


David Greilsammer's energy, ingenuity and joie de vivre flowed freely throughout the evening's program. The Jerusalem-born artist resides in Geneva, where he serves as musical/artistic director of the Geneva Camerata, one of today's most daring and innovative orchestras.



David Greilsammer,Doron Toister (Miri Shamir)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Tel Aviv Wind Quintet with guest pianist Aviram Reichert at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem

Aviram Reichert (Kang, Taeuk)


October 9th 2021 was a day of brilliant Autumn sunshine, bringing crowds of people to the verdant and buzzing village of Ein Kerem (Jerusalem). The hall of the Eden-Tamir Music Center was packed to capacity for the weekly Saturday morning concert, this event featuring the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet - Roy Amotz-flute, Dmitry Malkin-guest oboist, Danny Erdman-clarinet, Itamar Leshem-horn and Nadav Cohen-bassoon - with guest pianist Aviram Reichert. Welcoming the audience was Dr. Dror Semmel, the center's director. 


If the object of the divertimento was to entertain, the Tlvwq's playing of Harold Perry's wind quintet arrangement of Joseph Haydn's (1782) Divertimento in B flat Major Hob II:46 absolutely fit the bill. The performance abounded in energy, dynamic variety and touches of Haydnesque humour, its sense of well-being gift-wrapped in the ensemble's signature richness of timbre. Their playing of the "Chorale St. Antoni" (2nd movement) possibly written by Haydn's pupil Ignaz Pleyel (19th century publishers were known for attributing works to famous composers in order to increase sales) emerged noble and stately. 


Aviram Reichert joined Malkin, Erdman, Leshem and Cohen to perform L.v.Beethoven's Quintet for piano and winds in E flat major Op.16, a work composed by the composer in his 20s and clearly modelled after a quintet in the same key and scoring as that of Mozart (K. 452). From the extended slow Grave leading into the opening movement, one that happens to be as long as the two following movements combined, there was a solid sense of teamwork throughout - playing that was both effervescent and offering lyrical, appealing wind solos in the Andante (second) movement, (no Minuet and Trio) and culminating in the rondo of the Allegro movement. The latter's "hunting" theme, lively pace and cheerful, sunny disposition were punctuated by occasional reflective moments, but also filled with rollicking good humour. Sounding the most like an actual piano concerto, the Allegro ma non troppo movement makes for a sparkling and witty conclusion. The wind players' detail and large palette of textures and timbres made for interesting listening. Reichert's performance met the challenges of the quintet's marvellous piano role with involvement, expressiveness, buoyant- and exciting playing.


Israeli bassoonist Mordechai Rechtman (B.1926, Germany) is well known for his more-than 200 transcriptions and arrangements for wind quintet, wind instruments and large wind ensembles, several of them performed around the world under his own direction. The Tlvwq played his arrangement of the Allegro from Giuseppe Verdi's String Quartet in E minor (1873), the first movement of Verdi's only surviving chamber work and one that might not have been written at all were it not for the fact that the Naples production of "Aida" in early March of 1873 had to be delayed due to the sudden illness of the leading soprano. The Tlvwq players give expression and colour to Verdi's wonderful melodic ideas (occasional hints as to one or another of his operas), juxtaposing virtuosic sections with light textures and cantabile playing. Rechtman's setting gets pleasing results in the hands of first-rate players. The program also included three of J.S.Bach's Chorale Preludes as arranged by Dr. Uri Rom (Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv). Introducing the arrangements, two of which were premieres, Rom informed the audience that he has added counterpoint to them (as did Bach in his own new settings of works), with the wind quintet contexture offering more possibilities of interpolating counterpoint than the pipe organ. In "Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod", the sections of chorale melody were allotted to the flute (Amotz), reflecting Bach's chorale variation style. Listening to Rom's arrangement of "Wachet auf", the subject this time introduced by the horn (Leshem), I found myself wondering how propitious such copious counterpoint and ornamentation was to this much-loved work. 


The concert concluded with Austrian clarinettist/composer/arranger Reinhard Gutschy's arrangement for piano and winds of George Gershwin's 1924 "Rhapsody in Blue", the work bringing Gershwin fame as “the man who had brought jazz into the concert hall". This was an exciting work to end the Ein Kerem concert, indeed experiential for both the players and audience, as it opened with the clarinet (Erdman) in the ever-thrilling upward-sweeping ribbon of uninterrupted pitches (the glissando that became an iconic sound of American music), unleashing a floodgate of vivid ideas blending seamlessly into one another. The pulsing syncopated rhythms and showy music give way to a warm, expansive melody, the lush Andantino moderato section, with Gershwin at his most lyrical and catchy. Currently Associate Professor of Piano at Seoul National University, College of Music, this was Aviram Reichert's second rendition of the piece with the Tel Aviv Wind Quintet. Engaging his brilliant technique, sense of colour, rhythmic flexibility and feel for sweet sentimentality to the cause, his playing created the impression of spontaneous improvisation the composer had intended. (Actually, much of the solo part at the premiere was improvised by Gershwin, one page of the score simply directing bandleader Paul Whiteman to wait for a nod to continue.) The Tlvwq players gave expression to the work's full-on energy, its whimsy, its jazzy slick and charm. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

"Thus Fate Knocks at the Door" - The Israel Chamber Orchestra opens the 2021-2022 concert season with works of Ives, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Conductor: Ariel Zuckermann. Soloist: Amir Katz

Pianist Amir Katz (Robert Recker)


Maestro Ariel Zuckermann (courtesy ICO)
Ushering in the Israel Chamber Orchestra's 2021-2022 concert season at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on October 6th 2021, Moshe Neeman (chairman, ICO board) and Raz Frohlich (Israel Ministry of Culture and Sport) referred to "Thus Fate Knocks at the Door", the opening event, as a milestone following so many months of Covid-19 restrictions and unanswered questions. The Recanati Auditorium was then plunged into darkness. When the lights came on, what was visible at the front of the stage was a wind quartet and the ICO's musical director Ariel Zuckermann. However, behind the black curtain was the orchestra's string section and at the back of the hall, a sole trumpeter, all these elements creating the three-layered collage for Charles Ives' "The Unanswered Question''. For the duration of this short but disturbing mood piece, the strings play tranquil chords of almost no perceptible beat or meter, totally detached from the interaction beyond the curtain. The trumpet repeatedly poses the five-note motif Ives referred to as the "perennial question of existence,'' while the woodwind quartet responds in a frenetic and ultimately empty search for answers, playing with increasing rhythmic density, decreasing unity and escalating, intense dissonances. When the trumpet asks the question one last time, there is only one answer - silence. The work, written in 1908 when Ives was in his twenties (then revised 1930–1935), shows the brilliant, eccentric, and little-understood anomaly of American music to have been experimenting with many of the new compositional techniques years before his European counterparts. Ariel Zuckermann led his players through the challenging and thought-provoking work with precision and commitment, its musical language, tension and message affecting the audience no less deeply now, over a century from when it was written.


Israeli-born pianist, Amir Katz, today residing in Germany, joined the ICO for Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No.1 in G minor Op.25.  A work unusual in a number of ways, it is as if the 21-year-old composer had no patience for the first movement's customary orchestral exposition; he gives the orchestra a mere seven bars of introduction before the brilliant, almost defiant intervention of the soloist, then deviating once more to bring the separate movements together in a seamless whole. The work celebrates the technical advances now making the piano a bigger, heavier, louder instrument (also boasting a glittering new upper register), capable of filling a concert hall with sound and able to meet the modern orchestra on equal terms. Mendelssohn, himself a brilliant pianist, gave the work its first performance and several more after that. Zuckermann's reading of the concerto highlighted its youthful, compelling energy as well as its Sturm und Drang puissance. Katz complements the latter with strength, brilliant passage-work, his signature articulacy and fleet-of-finger playing in the outer movements, turning inwards in the E major slow movement, an intimate duet between piano and strings, to engage in what might be seen as an orchestrated "Song without Words". The pianist takes time to form, to examine and spell out the filigree details that give personal expression to cadenza- and solo moments. As with chamber musicians, Zuckermann and Katz engage in eye contact and close teamwork as melodies and accompanying figures pass back and forth, at one moment standing back, then to re-emerge, as they intertwine to form Mendelssohn's rich instrumental weave and create a delicate sense of balance. The ICO's brass section added to the vigour and lustre of the performance.


For an encore, Amir Katz chose the Intermezzo from Robert Schumann's "Faschingsschwank aus Wien" (Carnival of Vienna) Op. 26. Creating the piece's flowing sound via the steady stream of right-hand background notes interspersed with melody notes, Katz' playing, quick-witted in its rhythmic shaping, was warm in tone, his deft handling of the piece's stormy aspect never coarse, never taking precedence over the Schumanesque subcurrent of reflection and longing. 


Tying in with the theme of the concert, the final work on the program was Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op.67 (1808), a work that has gone down in music history as the "Symphony of Fate".  When Beethoven's secretary/biographer Anton Schindler questioned the composer about the work's opening motif (sometimes referred to as the most famous four notes in musical history) Beethoven is said to have replied: "This is the sound of fate knocking at the door." Musicologist Michael Stuck-Schloen suspects that Beethoven, even if the quote is authentic, may have responded thus if only to get rid of the intrusive Schindler. Does the work's spirit perhaps arise from new philosophical aspects of the French Revolution or is it, indeed, a "chant de victoire", as it was received in France? The composer himself insisted that he was not writing program music. Maestro Zuckermann, conducting with neither baton nor score, made clear the rewards of revisiting this monumental and somewhat enigmatic work, engaging with the fine ICO instrumentalists to present its unprecedented intensity, its lyricism, the myriad of instrumental colours, its suspense and its mysteries. The symphony's impact was transmitted to the audience in the Recanati Auditorium. Conductor Christoph Eschenbach has summed up Beethoven's 5th Symphony thus: "It has no predecessor. No successor in composition." 


Saturday, September 18, 2021

US composer Judith Shatin's "Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi" (1995) performed by pianist Nathan Carterette

Judith Shatin (Sarah Cramer)
Nathan Carterette (Barry Phipps)

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of hearing a recently-composed piano work by US composer Judith Shatin - "Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi"- performed by Nathan Carterette (US) and appearing on his disc "Poets of the Piano: Acts of Faith''. All the works on this CD were inspired by religious experience, albeit in the widest sense. Released online, the video film of "Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi'' is preceded by a discussion between composer and pianist. Judith Shatin is renowned for her richly imagined acoustic, electroacoustic and digital music, her daring, vivid sound world, her fine structural design and her text settings. Here, Shatin takes a well-known Jewish liturgical song "Elijah the Prophet", traditionally sung at the end of the Sabbath, its simple but haunting melody presenting the following text: 

"Elijah the prophet,

Elijah the Tishbite,

Elijah the Gileadite.

May he soon (in our days) come to us

With the Messiah, son of David."


Composed when Shatin was in residence at the Brahmshaus in Baden-Baden (Germany) in the summer of 1995, the work was first recorded by Mary Kathleen Ernst for the Innova label. A fascinating aspect of this piece is that Shatin, pursuing a different level of collaboration with the artist, leaves the order of the 18 (chai, in Hebrew means "living", also standing for number 18) variations to the pianist, the set of variations framed by statements of the theme. This creates an enormous number of possibilities, the scheme somewhat bordering on open form, even on improvisation. 


A classical pianist, trained at Yale University and in private study in Munich, Germany, Nathan Carterette has performed worldwide and is known for his performances of Bach, his work with composers of today and his educational initiative “Poets of the Piano.” As to the concept of Shatin's work, this was new and challenging to Carterette, demanding much experimenting on his part. He aims to find a fine balance between variations in which the melody is "in the foreground" and those that are somewhat more abstract.  His own order of the variations has led him to lining them up in groups of three. Indeed, they are character variations, each bearing a title referring to a human disposition - such as "Light-hearted", "Whimsical", "Sly", "Yearning" - or a more visual association - "Dark", "Flowing", "Shining" etc. And the work is basically tonal, its occasionally deviant, enriching, coloristic touches never losing sight of the song's minor tonality. So, is this program music? I think the answer to that is more subjective than objective, depending on performer and listener. As someone familiar with the Bible, Carterette views the piece as an exegesis, perhaps a sermon, delving deeply into Elijah's personality and the Elijah story itself. Carterette sweeps the listener into Shatin's vivid world of melodiousness, the richness of her textures and her imaginative use of registers, as he performs each small, wonderfully-crafted variation so sensitively, giving expression to its emotional content via strategic timing and deep personal involvement. Judith Shatin writes superbly for the piano. Nathan Carterette's profound and poetic performance of "Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi" is memorable.



Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Abu Ghosh Music Festival is back, but will take place at the Yizhak Rabin Center, Tel Aviv - September 22-26, 2021

Courtesy Asnat Shevet-Ganor


Have you been missing the Abu Ghosh Music Festival as much as I have? After a hiatus of two years, due to COVID-19 pandemic constraints, the Abu Ghosh Music Festival is about to spring back to life. Popular from the 1950s as an annual event, its organization was taken over in 1992 by music-lover Gershon Cohen and choral conductor Hanna Tzur, the revamped festival then taking place twice a year. Always well attended, people have been flocking to the two Abu Ghosh churches to hear the festival concerts, also enjoying the craft stalls, outdoor events and the relaxed, holiday atmosphere. As the Kiryat Yearim Church is presently undergoing renovation, the Sukkot Festival (September 22-26, 2021) will take place at the Yitzhak Rabin Centre in Tel Aviv. The Rabin Centre, located on a hill, boasts commanding panoramic views of the Yarkon Park and of the city of Tel Aviv, beautiful grounds and an imposing auditorium – the Leah Rabin Hall. A new team will take over the running of the festival, most of its members active on the Israeli music scene - Amit Tiefenbrunn - music director, Shlomit Sivan-Rosen - head of production, Tessa Harari - management/production, Alon Harari - head coordinator and Yeela Avital - participation director and fundraising. 


The 2021 Abu Ghosh Music Festival will offer four days of music of different styles - classical-, chamber- and folk music, Israeli- and ethnic music, with interaction between artists and audience and food and good wines; in short, a multi-sensory experience awaits all festival-goers! Concerts will feature some of the country’s finest ensembles - the Israeli Vocal Ensemble, the Carmel Quartet, Ensemble Barrocade, the Ramat Gan Chamber Choir, the Tel Aviv Collegium Singers and the Galilee Chamber Orchestra. The festival will also host Hortus Musicus (Estonia), conductor: Andres Mustonen, in a program of Italian music and with Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Amir as soloist.  “From Bach to Shem Tov”, a program combining classical music with Israeli contemporary music will feature flautist Shem Tov Levi himself. The “Quinta and a Half” (“Kvinta Va-Hetzi”) Vocal Ensemble will present a complete a-capella program of Israeli repertoire - original and unique arrangements of some of the best-loved songs of Arik Einstein, Matti Caspi, Shlomo Gronich, and more. And for those looking for some fiery emotion, El Fuego Del Flamenco will present a program of flamenco music and dance. And how about some Brazilian music performed by the Shorolha Ensemble for a magical night show in the Triguboff Garden overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline?  In cooperation with the Polyphony Foundation, the program for Sunday September 26th will present Arab musicians in performances of Arabic- and western music. The Eldrawish Music Ensemble of the Galilee will perform Sufi music and dance. There will also be a concert of French chansons, Arab poetry and music composed by pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar, featuring a string quartet and soprano Nour Darwish. The festival will conclude with a concert titled “Stabat Mater”, performed by the Galilee Chamber Orchestra with Saleem Abboud Ashkar conducting.


For more information on the 2021 Abu Ghosh Music Festival and for ticket reservations:  https://agfestival.co.il/ 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Works of Schubert and Brahms at the Eden-Tamir Music Center for the concert marking two years of pianist Alexander Tamir's passing



A sizable audience filled the hall of the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, on August 14th 2021 to attend the concert marking two years of Prof. Alexander Tamir's passing. The artists performing were pianists Shir Semmel, Dror Semmel and Ron Trachtman. 


Alexander Wolkovsky was born in 1931 in Vilnius, Lithuania, changing his name to Tamir after settling in Jerusalem in 1945. He and Bracha Eden formed their piano duo in 1952, both spending their professional lives teaching, performing worldwide as a duo and recording. The Eden-Tamir Duo lasted for over 59 years until Prof. Eden's death in 2006. In 1968, Eden and Tamir established the Max Targ Chamber Music Center in Ein Kerem (later to be renamed the Eden-Tamir Music Center). Following Prof. Tamir's death, Dr. Dror Semmel has taken over direction of the music centre.  


Introducing the event, Dror Semmel spoke of how Alexander Tamir and Bracha Eden had created the atmosphere of the centre, making it a home for so much music-making and so many musicians, the latter including budding young artists. The two works on the program were chosen for the fact that they had been performed widely by the Eden-Tamir Duo. The Jerusalem Duo - siblings Shir and Dror Semmel - opened with Schubert's Sonata for piano 4 hands in C major, D.812, "Grand Duo''.  Franz Schubert wrote over forty works for piano four hands throughout his short life, these intended for domestic music-making, but many written for his pupils, the daughters of Count Esterházy, whom he taught during summer months at the count’s country estate. Included in those is the Grand Duo, an ambitious, large-scale and challenging work of symphonic dimensions, indeed, Schubert’s most expansive piano work A question raised time and again is whether the Grand Duo was the ground plan for a symphony Schubert had in mind. For all the intimacy present in this species of parlour music, there is no denying that Schubert’s piano duets frequently sound orchestral, this work certainly being no exception. Dror Semmel spoke of a letter found recently, in 1970, in which Schubert had expressed that this piano work was not the sketch for an orchestral work. Set in C major, a key in which Schubert had written some of his most daring works, the Grand Duo, more epic than experimental, is a massive undertaking for any piano duo. Largely unfamiliar to many Schubert buffs, its mammoth proportions also present a challenge to the listener. Shir and Dror Semmel shared a vision for how the piece should be played, impressively capturing the beauty of Schubert's seductive melodies and rich textures together with the roller-coaster feel of the work's ever-changing moods, its aesthetic being one of discontinuities. Indeed, a tour de force, the artists nevertheless created the intimacy of the salon music experience. 


In order to promote the circulation of his works outside the concert hall, Johannes Brahms made piano arrangements of several orchestral works, including all four symphonies. In fact, his creative ideas in these piano versions have created renewed interest in the music world over the past decades. Dror Semmel explained that Brahms had written the orchestral- and the two-piano settings of Symphony No.3 in F major Op.90 at the same time. In fact, on November 22nd 1883, ten days before Hans Richter was to conduct the premiere of the work in Vienna, Brahms organised a musical evening in the elegant Ehrbar Salon, where he and Austrian pianist Ignaz Brüll presented the new symphony in his arrangement for two pianos to a distinguished group of invited guests. Reminding the audience that the two-piano version is based note-for-note on the symphonic version, Semmel suggested the audience should relate to the piano version as a "different work", putting aside association with its orchestral colours.(flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns,  trumpets,  trombones, timpani, and strings) when listening to it. Throughout the tightly-knit work's expressive scheme, one constantly juxtaposing major and minor, sometimes forcefully, but most often in delicate ways, Ron Trachtman and Dror Semmel integrated the grand tutti with cantabile-, even mysterious moments, as in the highly dramatic opening movement. The two middle movements are lighter and more delicate in character. (the Andante movement, however, punctuated by chords sounding vaguely ominous) as Brahms draws all of the thematic materials of the last movement together in a hushed apotheosis, finally settling the original question of minor or major in favour of the latter. Trachtman and Semmel showed the audience through the symphony's complex course with a finely crafted, articulate, polished and involved performance of the work German music critic Eduard Hanslick had referred to as Brahms’ “artistically most nearly perfect symphony".


Pleasing in its programming and realization, the concert was a moving tribute to Prof. Alexander Tamir and to his lifelong contribution to the Israeli musical scene.