Monday, October 27, 2008

Jerusalem Early Music Workshop 2008

The Jerusalem Early Music Workshop, under the auspices of the Jerusalem Music Centre and run by Hed Sella, its director, was taking place for the 22nd time over the Succoth holiday of 2008. At Beit Shmuel, some twenty notable European, Canadian and Israeli musicians tutored 120 young Israeli players in an intensive course focusing on performance practice of the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods. Many of the students play conventional, modern instruments and this workshop was a chance for them to be exposed to period instruments and to the subtlety and sophistication of early repertoire. The workshop is known for its informal, warm and encouraging atmosphere. Students attend classes and concerts and play in ensembles. Clarinetist Lorenzo Coppola feels the importance of such a workshop is not just to produce professional performers but to encourage playing for pleasure and a future concert-loving audience. Tutors I talked to praised the excellent organization of the course.

I spent the morning of Sunday October 19 wandering around Beit Shmuel and Hebrew Union College visiting just a few of the many ensemble groups. The students, impressive in their competence, disciplined and serious, were preparing works to be performed at the students’ concert. Canadian soprano Ann Monoyios was working on a cantata by A.Scarlatti with a female singer, two recorder players, harpsichord and ‘cellist. Monoyios was discussing ornaments, the importance of eye contact and the role of the ‘cello in bringing out the many hemiolas of the piece.

In another room, Israeli harpsichord player, Yizhar Karshon, himself at the harpsichord, was guiding three flautists and a bassoonist through a Boismortier quartet. Karshon was talking about expression, tonguing, textures and contrasts, the role of the flutes as regarding that of the harpsichord-bassoon continuo. He went on to talk about the authentic “Baroque sound”. The transition from a slow movement to a fast one needed more work; Karshon showed the young players the importance of the break between movements, followed by fresh energy and a mood change in store to surprise the audience in the movement to come.

Baritone Assif Am-David was working on a Telemann cantata with a soprano, violinist, flautist, harpsichordist and ‘cellist. He was giving tips regarding Baroque performance practice and encouraging the singer to ornament her line.

German ‘cellist Rainer Zipperling’s young musicians, playing flute, oboe, bassoon, ‘cello, violin and harpsichord, were working on Vivaldi’s Concerto in g minor. The ensemble sound was rich and pleasing. Addressing each player by name, Zipperling discussed dynamics, the varying of each phrase and advised the players not to “warn” the audience of an approaching subito forte! He advised the ‘cellist not to drag and that he should “sing” more. There was work done with the violinist on a tricky rhythmic passage. “The forte makes you throw the bow, distracting yourself from the actual rhythm.”

British baritone, Peter Harvey, no newcomer to the workshop, told me he was enjoying the high standard of singing but felt that more male singers should attend the course. His ensemble, - consisting of violin, Baroque flute, ‘cello and harpsichord and two soprano singers, was working on Louis-Nicolas Clerambault’s cantata “Leandre et Hero”. Alternating in the solo role, the two singers gave expression to the drama and emotion of the work, ‘cellist and harpsichordist kept constant eye contact; violinist and flautist presented some well-coordinated, poignant moments.

British violinist, Margaret Faultless, was enjoying the serious attitude shown by the students and appreciated having the chance to spend time talking “shop” with other tutors between lessons. Her ensemble, made up of recorder, two violins, ‘cello and harpsichord, was playing Mancini’s Concerto in g minor. Faultless, addressing her students by name, spoke about live performance of Baroque music –suggesting it should include “loud whispering” and “quiet shouting”. She discussed various approaches to continuo playing around 1700. The session ended with Faultless taking the ensemble through the routine of how to bow at the end of a performance. Faultless will be conducting and soloing with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra November 15 and 16, 2008.

Shut your eyes and, in all the classes I audited, you might forget you were hearing such young players, many of them teenagers. However, in the leafy, tranquil Beit Shmuel courtyard, a ping-pong table offered participants relaxation from concert preparation. In Matthew Halls’ room, a blond, still smooth-faced, jeans-clad, youth was holding up the rehearsal, looking for his bassoon score. Once it was found, Halls told him never to leave his music around again….a gentle reminder that the players here, highly gifted as they may be, are young. This larger ensemble of 14 players included two oboes and two horns for an invigorating performance of Handel’s “Water Music” Suite. Halls, in his relaxed, humorous manner, talked about musicianship. “Once we have a clear pulse, we can be free”, he said. “Watch me for rubato. Let’s go the extra meter to achieve superb artistry. Do get your heads out of the score and look at me.” “By standing, you can be flexible and freer. How about playing this as the most joyful piece you have ever played!” Halls suggested the horns turn the bell of their instruments towards the audience, the idea being to “thrill them”. One player asked about dynamics. Halls’ answer was “We don’t make plans for dynamics. Watch me”. I talked to Halls about the workshop. He felt he had invested a lot of energy in his classes but that the young players were responsive and gave much energy back.

Concert I
The three tutors’ concerts – “Bach and Beyond” - took place in the Hirsch Theatre of Merkaz Shimson and were open to the general public. In the first, Matthew Halls, a well-known conductor and harpsichord player, performed J.S. Bach’s (1685-1750) Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 on the beautiful Michael Johnson harpsichord which belongs to the JMC. Halls has performed the Goldberg Variations frequently of late and has recently recorded them;this year he will record all the J.S.Bach keyboard concertos. He sees the Goldberg Variations as a journey (or a map) which becomes clearer as the player proceeds. His playing is beautifully measured and accurate, his journey is one of energy and contrasts, of entertaining dances, of virtuosity, textural complexities and also humor. Halls is articulate and takes time to spell out the melodic, harmonic and expressive content of each variation. The concert ended with a poignant Sarabande, a subject which has a set of variations, probably an early J.S.Bach piece.

Matthew Halls (UK)-harpsichord
J.S.Bach – The Goldberg Variations
The Hirsch Theatre, Mercaz Shimshon
Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem
October 15, 2008.

Concert II
In the second concert, we heard works from the Baroque to the Romantic period. The evening began with J.S.Bach’s Suite in d minor for ‘cello solo, BWV 1008, performed by gamba-player and ‘cellist, Rainer Zipperling. A professor at the Frankfurt- and Cologne Conservatories, Zipperling’s recent recording of the six Bach Suites for Violoncello Solo has received glowing critiques. In the opening Prelude of the d minor suite, Zipperling breathes temperament into the melody, using vibrato to embellish it. In the Allemande, his caressing tone poignantly guides the listener through each different key. Following the hugely energetic Courante, the broad Sarabande is ornamented and conversational, with the artist taking his time to convey the personal character of the piece. The Minuets are technically complex; however, Zipperling places emphasis on the entertaining aspect of these court dances. In the Gigue, the short, eighth-note upbeat and following downbeat were a charming touch and contrasted well with the many fast, sixteenth-note passages. It was a rich and thought-provoking performance.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), J.S.Bach’s second son, spent thirty years in the service of Frederick the Great, a flautist himself. His Sonata in C major, Wq 73, seems to have been written originally for violin and keyboard. We heard it performed on Baroque flute and fortepiano by Kate Clark and Zvi Meniker. Meniker was playing a Walter model fortepiano, built by Wolf (USA) and owned by Bar Ilan University’s Music Department. From the opening Allegro di molto, the artists delighted the audience with brightness and clean playing. The Andante was delicate and expressive, with charming ornamentation and a small flute cadenza. Following this, the elegant and demanding Allegretto movement was a vehicle for interesting stresses and much energy. Performer, researcher and lecturer Kate Clark was born in Sydney Australia and now lives in Amsterdam. She is a leading specialist on the Renaissance flute. Zvi Meniker was born in Moscow and raised in Israel. Today he teaches at the Hanover Conservatory and is visiting professor at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) Trio opus 11 in B flat major for clarinet, ‘cello and fortepiano was composed in 1797. Beethoven dedicated it to Countess Wilhemine von Thun and chose to include the clarinet because of the novelty and popularity of woodwind instruments at the time. Clarinetist Lorenzo Coppola, who emceed the evening with much humor, talked about opera buffa, referring to this trio, with its special effects, as an “opera without singers”. For this work, Coppola was playing a copy of a 1790’s Heinrich Grenser clarinet. The work was a myriad of beautifully shaped phrases, crisp, accurate motifs and lush textures. Coppola’s tone and expression are gorgeous. “Pria ch’io l’impegno” (a humorous song claiming that before starting anything important, one must first eat) was a currently popular tune from Joseph Weigl’s opera “L’Amor Marinaro” (The Corsair). Using the song in the third movement of the trio – Thema con variazione - , Beethoven dismembers Weigl’s ditty and reconstructs it in nine different ways, ending with a dancing 6/8 Allegretto coda.

Joseph Haydn’s (1732-1809) Trio in D major for flute, ‘cello and fortepiano was one of three piano trios composed in 1789 or 1790 at the behest of London publisher John Bland, with the flute replacing the violin due to the request of some of Bland’s clients. From the opening Allegro, Clark, Zipperling and Meniker presented the audience with the joy of articulate, Haydnesque lines and gestures. The second movement - Andante piutosto allegretto – was touching, delicate and singing and the final Vivace assai, pleasing in its lightness and intense moments. There was clearly fine collaboration between the artists.

Composed in the last year of his life, “The Shepherd on the Rock” is very different to other Lieder composed by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) in that it falls into three sections, has texts by two different poets and is scored for clarinet in addition to soprano voice and piano. In fact, it is more like an operatic aria than a Lied. It calls for soprano voice although the words are those of a shepherd yearning through a long winter for his beloved.
……. “The further my voice travels,
The clearer it returns to me from below.
So far from me does my love dwell
That I yearn for her more ardently over there”.. (Translation: Lionel Salter.)
Canadian soprano, Ann Monoyios, Coppola and Meniker shape each phrase and nuance magically. Monoyios begins the vocal line with delicacy; her piano tone is controlled and bewitching as she takes us through the shepherd’s longing and sadness. Meniker and Coppola are with her all the way. Monoyios paints the last section of transcendent hope with the joy and color of spring.
“Spring is coming,
Spring, my joy;
Now I will make ready to go journeying.”
Monoyios, a Baroque specialist, performs, gives master classes and records widely, and is a member of faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

The evening ended with Monoyios singing a gentle, caressing cradle song by Louis Spohr.

Ann Monoyios (Canada) –soprano
Kate Clark (Holland) –flute
Lorenzo Coppola (Italy) – clarinet
Rainer Zipperling (Germany) – ‘cello
Zvi Meniker (Israel-Germany) – fortepiano
The Hirsch Theatre, Mercaz Shimshon,
Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem
October 16, 2008

Concert III
Concert III was an evening of Baroque music, opening with J.F.Fasch’s (1688-1758) Sonata in F major for oboe, violin, horn & basso continuo. In this ensemble we heard Dutch oboist Peter Frankenberg, British violinist Margaret Faultless and British horn player Andrew Clark. Clark performs on a variety of different horns, according to the historical context of repertoire being performed. In this concert, he played a large natural horn (no valves), making no use of hand-stopping, for the Fasch and Telemann works. Fasch, admired by J.S.Bach, marks the transition from the Baroque-, through the Roccoco-, to the early Classical style. The players, delighting the audience with the mix of their different timbres, presented the various characteristics of the work – the majestic, jovial, the flowing and lyrical – with a fine ensemble sound as well as plenty of personal expression.

Practical knowledge of various instruments is one of the most important keys to understanding G.Ph.Telemann’s (1681-1767) works. His aim is to give “each instrument that which suits it” while “exploiting the potential of each to the utmost”. In his Concerto a 3 in F major for horn, recorder & basso continuo, we heard Clark on horn and Han Tol (Holland) on recorder. Johannes Tol has performed, recorded and taught in Europe, America and the Far East and, from 1999 to 2007, was a member of the outstanding Flanders Quartet. His performance in this concert was expressive and brilliant. In the F major concerto, following the Allegro molto movement, the Loure, in keeping with Telemann’s love of the French style, was played with the elegance of lovely ornaments on recorder, harpsichord (using the lute register) and ‘cello. The Tempo di menuet movement, heavy in its beats, reflects Telemann’s taste for Polish, Moravian and Hanakian folk music, acquired on his travels between 1705 and 1708.

The recorder is featured in only a handful of Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) concertos, but where it does appear, the result is a concerto of virtuosic technique and musical variety. In his Concerto in g minor, RV 105, written in the typical Vivaldian form of three movements – fast, slow, fast –, we hear Tol on recorder, Peter Frankenberg (Holland) –oboe, Margaret Faultless-violin and Marc Vallon (bassoon) as well as basso continuo. The first movement is lively, giving all players melodic expression. The second movement – Largo –, given much expression by Tol, is, indeed, an aria for recorder, accompanied by bassoon and harpsichord. In the third movement, all instruments play once more; the bassoon is now given renewed, demanding solo duties. This rhythmic, colorful Allegro molto movement was inspiring in its energy. Marc Vallon (France), an orchestral- and chamber music player, has taught modern and Baroque bassoon at the Paris and Lyons Conservatory, gives master classes and is an arranger and composer. Musicologist and Baroque oboist Peter Frankenberg tours and records with several European ensembles, tutoring at a number of summer courses.

In Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata in a minor for recorder, bassoon and basso continuo, we had the pleasure of hearing Israeli recorder player Lara Morris. A member of several European consorts, Morris currently teaches recorder at the Jerusalem Academy of Music. From the opening Largo, one is lured into the fascinating combination of recorder and bassoon, certainly strange bedfellows, but how articulate and intense they are! Morris’ playing is expressive and brilliant; Vallon, too, no less, as we heard in the Allegro, which they presented with verve. In the Largo cantabile, the bassoon joins accompanying instruments, giving the recorder the stage. In the Allegro molto, with the two conversing once more, the audience enjoyed the energy and joy resulting from fine, communicative playing.

An interesting and moving item on the program was a group of pieces from two J.S.Bach cantatas, forming what baritone Peter Harvey called a “fake cantata”. “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn” (Walk in the Way of Faith) BWV 152, composed in Weimar in1714, calls for a small ensemble of players, thus creating an intimate chamber piece. “Wer sich erhoehet, der soll erniedriget warden” (Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he who gains humility shall be exalted over.), BWV 47, was composed in Leipzig in 1726. The lush and interesting opening sinfonia, scored for recorder (Tol), oboe, violin, ‘cello and organ, issues in the “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn” aria, with its opening motif depicting the stepping movement of “Tritt”, with its superb oboe obbligato. Peter Harvey’s voice boasts a rich mix of light and dark and his study of and interest in the verbal text are clear. In the aria “Der Heiland is gesetzt in Israel” (The Savior is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel), we enjoy the intimacy and delicacy of voice, organ and ‘cello. In “Jesu, beuge doch mein Herze” (Jesus, humble my heart), violin and oboe interact and intertwine beguilingly. Harvey sings the final chorale as a solo:
“Perishable honor I will gladly reject,
If only You reserve the eternal for me,
That You have won through Your harsh, bitter death.
This I pray to you, my Lord and God”.

Peter Harvey (UK)-baritone
Kate Clark (Holland)-flute
Peter Frankenberg (Holland)-oboe
Marc Vallon (France)-bassoon
Rainer Zipperling (Germany)-‘cello
Margaret Faultless (UK)-violin
Han Toll (Holland)-recorder
Lara Morris (Israel)-recorder
Andrew Clark (UK)-horn
Matthew Halls (UK)-harpsichord
The Hirsch Theatre, Mercaz Shimshon,
Beit Shmuel, Jerusalem
October 18, 2008