Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival 2009,final concert

The 2009 Jerusalem International Chamber Music Concert’s closing concert took place Saturday September 12th with a program of Romantic music at the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship in the Jerusalem YMCA. It was the last of 13 concerts involving artists from several countries; the festival is under the musical direction of Elena Bashkirova.

Th3 2009 festival included a number of Mendelssohn’s works, 2009 being the bicentennial year of his birth. The closing concert opened with eight of Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) “Songs Without Words” arranged for 8 string- and woodwind instruments by high school students of the Israel Arts and Science Academy. These piano gems were a fine choice for the project. We were presented with non-pianoforte timbres - at times lush, at times richly layered in energetic, virtuosic, contrapuntal movement - charming imitations, grandeur and richness slowed down to allow one to savor instrumental hues, simplicity presented in color, wooded nature scenes, a fleeting moment of emotion. The pieces were expertly handled by violinists Alina Ibragimova and Micaela Martin, violist Amichai Grosz, ‘cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, double-bass player Nabil Shehata, oboist Ramon Ortega Quero, clarinetist Tibi Cziger and bassoonist Mauricio Paez.

Dorothea Roschmann (b.1967,Germany) is a soprano with a wide range of repertoire ranging from early music to opera. In this concert, we were witness to another dimension of her art - the intimate world of the German Lied, in which she performed Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) song cycle “Frauenliebe und -leben” Opus 42 (1840) with Elena Bashkirova at the piano. Taking the audience with her through Chamisso’s study of a woman’s inner world, Roschmann’s tempi are paced. Her phrases are well chiseled, her timing (not always met by Bashkirova) flexed to express the moment at hand, her fast, agile dynamic changes highly effective yet smooth, her piani set off by consonants, vehement and poignant. Her voice is stable and rich throughout its range. The audience, moved by the performance, fittingly rewarded this great artist with a few seconds of silence before applauding.

This was followed by Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor, opus 49(1839) with Nicolai Demidenko-piano, Daishin Kashimoto-violin and Frans Helmerson-‘cello. The artists gave a spirited reading of this much-loved chamber work, the first movement intense in color, emotion and energy, followed by a bittersweet, singing and meditative Andante con moto tranquillo. The Scherzo frolicked joyfully, its brilliance taking on a lightness of touch. Demidenko’s performance was overshadowed by that of the string players.

Carl Maria von Weber’s (1786-1826) Andante Ungarese in C minor, opus 35 (1809) was performed by violist Gerard Causse, with Ohad Ben-Ari at the piano. Causse’s fine, flowing technique and joie-de-vivre pleased and entertained the audience in Weber’s performance-oriented piece. Ben-Ari’s forte sections made a point but sometimes lacked shape.

Mendelssohn’s Octet in E flat major, opus 20, for Strings (1825) brought the 2009 Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival to a memorable close. Violinists Alina Ibragimova, Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler and Daishin Kashimoto, violists Gerard Causse and Amichai Grosz and ‘cellists Frans Helmerson and Kyril Zlotnikov took on board this brilliantly innovative and Romantically expressive work in all its youthful spontaneity (Mendelssohn was sixteen when he composed it!) With Ibragimova leading, there was much eye contact among the players, a masterful collaboration of individual expression and mutual involvement in the musical meaning of the work. The third movement, Scherzo, gave relief to the intensity of the other movements with light, lilting, flirtatious understatement, recreating a moment of Mendelssohn’s imaginary, magic world of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the players visibly showing their enjoyment. The octet was an inspiring and uplifting end to the 2009 Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival.

East Meets West at the Jerusalem Music Centre

“East Meets West”, a concert in honor of Mr. Aleksander Gudzowaty and the guests of the Annual Interfaith Tolerance Symposium, took place at the Jerusalem Music Centre, Mishkenot Sha’ananim Tuesday September 15th 2009.

Hed Sella, the JMC’s executive director, welcomed those present. He emphasized the appropriateness in concluding an interesting day of discussion on interfaith tolerance with music, that music promoted tolerance, with the convergence of voices, each independent but together forming harmony. Sella talked of the task of putting together a musical program of interfaith- and intercultural content in which we were to hear the music of Felix Mendelssohn, a 19th century European composer, followed by Arabic classical music performed by Jewish- and Arabic musicians playing together.

Mrs. Ruth Cheshin, president of the Jerusalem Foundation and a member of the board of directors of the JMC, welcomed Polish businessman Mr. Aleksander Gudzowaty and proceeded to talk about the importance of such a meeting for the city of Jerusalem and the fact that the JMC was a cultural bridge of understanding. She went on to say that the Jerusalem Foundation honored the values and ideals taken upon participants of the symposium, that these values constitute our common dream.

The program opened with Felix Mendelssohn’s (1809-1847) String Quartet in F minor opus 80, performed by the illustrious Carmel Quartet – violinists Lia Raikhlin and Rachel Ringelstein, violist Yoel Greenberg and ‘cellist Tami Waterman. Established in 1999, the quartet performs widely and is the recipient of prestigious prizes. The Carmel Quartet presents a yearly series of explained concerts at the JMC. The F minor String Quartet, composed in 1847, is, indeed, Mendelssohn’s last major work. Different in character to the genial atmosphere of many of the composer’s previous works, it reflects the “most intense emptiness and barrenness in the mind and heart” on the death of his sister, Fanny. The Carmel Quartet gave expression to this emotional angst from the outset, where tremolos set the bleak scene. Playing was articulate, with jagged entries introducing clean melodic strands. In the second movement – Allegro assai – fraught with syncopations, the artists demonstrated the uncompromising nature and darkness of textures in tense and mysterious moments. The third movement shed a more lyrical, positive light, with the players using dynamic change with daring to create contrast and moments of poetic beauty. In the virtuosic fourth movement, the quartet presented the richly textured and layered canvas with each gesture addressed articulately, the second subject suggesting charm and hope. This was a profound and detailed performance and a treat to those who appreciate fine chamber music.

Ensemble Mactub – Hillel Amsallem-percussion, Jacob Reuven-mandolin, Elias Wakileh-oud and Hagai Bilitzky-double bass – performed a number of classical Arabic and Middle-eastern pieces in different maqams (the melodic modes used in Arabic music.) Opening with a Longa in the Nahawind maqam, the pieces evoked the inebriating fragrances of the Middle East. Played with precision, flexibility, understatement and delicacy, each one was thoroughly worked, yet leaving room for spontaneity. All four artists are outstanding, they watch each other and communicate, they entertain with intricate, virtuosic solos, expressing the joy of music-making, never overstepping the bounds of good taste…and the audience loved it.