Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Orchester Jakobsplatz Munchen opens the JMC's 2009-2010 Chamber Music Series

The Jerusalem Music Centre, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Jerusalem, hosted the Orchester Jakobsplatz Munchen November 11th 2009 as the opening concert of its 2009-2010 Chamber Music Concert Series at the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship, YMCA Jerusalem. The Orchester Jakobsplatz Munchen was founded in 2005 by its current artistic director and conductor Daniel Grossmann, together with young members of the Jewish community of Upper Bavaria. Coinciding with the construction of Munich’s Jakobsplatz Jewish Centre, its goal has been to create a dialogue between young Jewish- and non-Jewish musicians, eventually attracting players from 23 countries. Daniel Grossmann (b.1978) studied piano, ‘cello and viol and is having an illustrious conducting career. The OJM also provides a stage for his interest in the works of forgotten and persecuted Jewish composers, in music of the 20th- and 21st centuries as well as for newly commissioned works.

Following a few words of welcome by the JMC’s executive director Hed Sella, the concert opened with French-born, Jewish composer Darius Milhaud’s (1892-1974) “Jeux de Printemps” opus 243 (1944), ballet music for chamber orchestra (it was choreographed by Martha Graham.) In this work of light, whimsical colors and textures colored with jazzy- and Latin American touches, Grossmann creates a delicate string- and wind collage in six short movements, each instrumental solo a delight, each movement a sketch rich in understatement. In the final clustery chord, Milhaud leaves us 20th century.

Milhaud’s Concert de Chambers for Piano and Chamber Orchestra (wind quintet and string quintet) opus 389, composed in 1961, presented a very different soundscape. Grossmann placed his strings on the left of the stage, woodwinds and brass on the right and the piano in the centre, but to the back of the stage, adding a visual dimension to Milhaud’s scoring. More atonal in approach, this later work in three movements, is a tight series of mood pieces. Articulate and accurate in performance, Grossmann’s reading of it allowed for much play of textures and color.

The concert included two works by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), the first being his Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in C major, Hob. VIIb:1. Composed for Joseph Weigl, a gifted ‘cellist of the Esterhazy orchestra, the score, presumed lost, was only found again in 1961 in the National Museum in Prague. Soloist with the OJM was Adrian Brendel (b.1976, London). Doubling as orchestral player cum soloist, Brendel went for musical depth rather than a showy approach. His wide experience as a chamber music artist has groomed him well for the delicate balance needed for soloing with such a small ensemble. Following the Haydnesque joy and freshness of the Moderato movement, Brendel’s expressiveness in the Adagio, the absence of wind instruments contributing to its intimate atmosphere, showed that understatement can be meaningful and wistfully subtle. In the joyful Finale, with Grossmann’s contrasts ever present, the virtuosic ‘cello part was alive with articulate gestures.

Haydn’s Symphony no. 44 in E minor Hob.1:44 (Mourning) brought the concert to a close. Composed in 1771, all four movements are in E minor. (Later in his life, Haydn requested that the slow movement be played at his funeral.) The Allegro con brio was well nuanced, its motifs clearly chiseled, with fine and sensitive brass playing. In the Menuetto, the interest and playful aspect of the canon were played in mellow shades with clear dynamic changes. Following the richly flowing eloquence of the Adagio, the Finale, opening with unison urgency, was infused with young energy. Grossmann’s reading of Haydn’s music is rich in Classical color, placing emphasis on directness and human spirit.

Listening to the Orchestra Jakobsplatz Munchen, I felt that a chamber orchestra of this size and quality invites its audience to listen more actively to each instrument than does a large orchestra; its players retain their individuality and initiative, with Grossmann addressing each of them personally at given moments. The orchestra also boasts fine players – kudos to the wind players for creating such a delicate blend. Grossmann’s good taste shows in stylistic fine detail and elegance.


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