Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Harpsichord Music by Israeli Composers

“Harpsichord Music by Israeli Composers” (Albany Records, TROY 977)) is a representative and interesting collection of works performed by harpsichordist Marina Minkin. Minkin, born the Ukraine and living in Israel, has chosen eight composers of two generations, all of whom, (except for Yinam Leef who is the only Israeli-born composer represented,) blend musical traditions from their native countries with the many flavors of the Middle East and Israel, in particular. Take, for example, Haim Alexander’s (b. Germany, 1915) miniature - “Improvisation on a Persian Song”. Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984) also born in Germany, scored his Sonata a Tre” (1968) for harpsichord, mandolin and guitar; Minkin here is joined by guitarist Hanan Feinstein and mandolin-player Alon Sariel. The three instruments emulate Arabic plucked instruments and maqam motives. Yinam Leef was born in Jerusalem in 1953.His “Elegy” (Canaanite Fantasy no. 3,) composed in 1990, is contemplative and contemporary. Minkin takes us with her into the personal expression of this piece.

Benjamin Bar-Am (b.Germany, 1923) composed his “Petite Suite for Recorder and Harpsichord” in 1967. Put aside for many years, Minkin came across it by chance. In this fine work of four miniature movements, recorder-player Drora Bruck presents a polished and interesting performance.

Uri Brener’s (b. Moscow, 1974) “7-11 and Much Later” presents a play of improvisational ideas and jazz rhythms, with much attention to harpsichord sonority. Minkin’s playing invites you to listen, to be involved. Dina Smorgonsky (b. Belarus, 1947) wrote her “Three Dances for Harpsichord” for Minkin in 2007. In this piece, she mixes styles of past with present. Minkin gives this work an elegant reading. Other composers whose works appear on this disc are Yeheskel Braun and Sergiu Natra.

With her choice of high-quality Israeli harpsichord music, Minkin’s playing leaves no stone unturned. Her technique is crystal clean and boasts ease; her ability to interpret very different styles is a specialty not all harpsichordists possess. Above all, Minkin’s playing delights the senses.

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