Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Resonance Ensemble performs Baroque- and early Classical music at the Austrian Hospice

“Vivaldi Goes to Vienna” was the theme of a concert performed by the Resonance Ensemble May 14th 2011 in the salon of the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Resonance Ensemble is a new Israeli group focusing on Baroque chamber music. Its members have each made their name in the field of performing and, as ensemble musicians, they focus on bringing out the particular spirit of the time of works they perform.

Zvi Meniker, director of the Resonance Ensemble, was born in Moscow but grew up in Israel. An organist and specialist in performance on early keyboard instruments – harpsichord and fortepiano – Professor Meniker performs and records widely and heads the Early Music department of the Hochschule for Music and Theater in Hannover (Germany).

Ira Givol (b.1979, Israel) Ira plays both viola da gamba and ‘cello and mostly devotes his time to the performance of chamber music. A member of several Baroque ensembles, Givol is also a founding member of the Tel Aviv Trio. He is the recipient of several awards and has performed with leading Israeli orchestras.

Avner Geiger (b.1982, Israel), currently a member of the Israel Camerata Jerusalem, plays both modern flute and Baroque flute (traverse). He is a graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and has taken postgraduate studies in Germany and France. Geiger has soloed with orchestras in Israel and further afield.

Composer, arranger and violinist Jonathan Keren (b.1978, Israel) began his violin studies with Chaim Taub. He spent his three years’ mandatory service in the Israel Defense Force as a member of the “Outstanding Musicians” unit, where he arranged more than 50 pieces for chamber- and vocal ensembles. Keren holds a masters degree from the Julliard School of Music. His works have are performed widely, his most recent piano piece recently appearing on a disc played by David Greilsammer. Jonathan Keren currently resides in New York.

Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Trio in D major RV84 for Traverso, Violin and Basso Continuo is, in fact a concerto, in which the flute appears as a solo instrument in the episodes, with the violin functioning as a ripieno instrument in tutti sections. Soloing with the energetic and many-faceted dimensions of the group’s signature sound, Avner Geiger’s performance was lively and flexible, his use of ornaments rich and varied.

It is not known when Vivaldi’s composed his six sonatas for ‘cello and continuo. Not especially demanding technically, they may have been written for students at the Ospedale, the school for orphan girls, where the composer was employed. Ira Givol’s reading of the work was flexible, dramatic and adventurous, infused with emotional energy.

The foremost German keyboard composer before Bach, Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667) studied with Frescobaldi in the late 1630’s (converting to Catholicism in order to study with him in Rome.) He was in court employment in Vienna and Brussels and won success as a performer in France and England. The personal idiom he developed combined aspects of German, French and Italian styles, his surviving oeuvre consisting almost exclusively of keyboard music. Zvi Meniker performed one of Froberger’s toccatas. Featuring multiple sections, Meniker’s playing of it took the listener into the more daring harpsichord repertoire as he brought out the individual character of each small section, texture, with arpeggiation, ornamentation and other devilish, technical challenges making for a sense of spontaneity and personal expression.

On January 2nd 1791, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) arrived in England for the first of two visits that would leave their mark on the host country and on Haydn himself. The “London Trios” (1794), originally scored for two flutes and ‘cello, were composed for two of Haydn’s London patrons, Lord Abingdon and Sir Walter Aston, both amateur flautists and, clearly, competent musicians. Geiger, Keren and Givol performed this “lightweight” Haydn repertoire with charm, vitality and technical mastery, emphasizing the work’s naïve, humane lyricism, humor and warmth.

In 1729, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) wrote of his artistic development: “First came the Polish style, followed by the French, church, chamber and operatic styles, and finally the Italian style, which currently occupies me more than the others do”. He composed the Twelve Fantasias for Flute Solo in Hamburg in 1732 or 1733, the G minor Fantasia TWV 40:13 being the last of the set of twelve. Avner Geiger wove the opening Grave in an almost vocal fashion, creating contrasts between the ensuing miniature movements to the Dolce, built on arpeggios and slow, large intervals, closing with a fast Bourree in Polish style.

Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz von Biber (1644-1704), considered the greatest violinist of his time, represented the high point of the Austrian Baroque. He was court composer to the Salzburg Cathedral. The first half of his Violin Sonata no.6 in C minor calls for scordatura (altered tuning), resulting in special tone-color effects. Opening with the broad, noble Largo, Jonathan Keren presents the Passacaglia with a mix of richly weighty and light bowing, brilliant passagework and temperament. Keren handles Biber’s musical and technical demands with verve, contending with the elaborate double- and triple stopping written by the violin virtuoso, adding ornaments to repeated sections. He and Meniker partnered in a thrilling and courageous performance of the final Gavotte.

C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788), the second of J.S.Bach’s sons, composed his Trio Sonata for Traverso, Violin and Basso Continuo in B flat major Wq 161/2 (H.587) in 1748 when employed at the court of Frederick the Great. The trio sonatas were an important part of his chamber music output there, the king being a keen musician and amateur flautist. C.P.E.Bach was one of the foremost representatives of the “Empfindsamkeit” aesthetic in music, which slanted towards personal emotions. In his autobiography (1773), C.P.E.Bach wrote “I feel that music must, above all, touch the heart”. The Resonance Trio presented the grace, beauty and melodiousness of this felicitous music, entertaining the audience with its charm and the many dynamic changes, the latter characterising the impish and playful final movement.

The Resonance Ensemble focuses on the energy and excitement of Baroque music, adamantly pressing the point. All four players are impressive in their technical- and musical aptitude, giving individual expression and interest to the music. Their energy and intensity were not balanced with the mellifluous blending and tranquility also inherent in the repertoire performed, the ‘cello, despite its gut stringing, very often sounding too dominant.

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