Monday, October 31, 2011

The Basel Madrigalists perform at the October 2011 Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival

The Basler Madrigalisten (Basel Madrigalists) are an ensemble founded at the Basel Schola Cantorum in 1978. Focusing largely on early- and contemporary music, the choir has toured much of Europe, Australia, the United States, Lebanon and the Far East. The Basler Madrigalisten drew a large audience at a concert in the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival, October 21st 2011 in the Kiryat Yearim Church in the Judean Hills. The Basler Madrigalisten were in Israel as part of the "Culturescapes" Season of Swiss Culture.

Having founded the Basler Madrigalisten, performing tenor, teacher and orchestral- and choral conductor Fritz Näf (b.Switzerland, 1943) has been full-time artistic director and conductor of the ensemble since 2000.

Pianist Paul Suits (b.California) (piano and organ) has concertized in the Far East, Canada, throughout Europe and the United States. He has held positions in opera houses and music academies in Switzerland. Paul Suits has also composed operas, choral works and songs.

Opening the program with a joyous rendering of Heinrich Schütz’ jubilant motet “Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes”, Psalm 19 (The heavens are telling of God in glory) (1648) for mixed choir, one of 29 motets of the opus 11 “Geistliche Chormusik” collection (Spiritual Choral Music). In his preface to these works, the composer writes that instrumental forces may be used together with voices (we heard it with organ). From the very first notes of the work, it was clear that we were to hear a vocal group in which each word and phrase is shaped and chiseled. J.S.Bach’s motet “Komm, Jesu komm!” for eight voices BWV 229, probably composed during Bach’s Leipzig years, makes an unusual combination of a funeral hymn by Paul Thymich and biblical texts. The Basler Madrigalisten bring out the contrasts between contrapuntal- and imitative choral passages and mood changes. Small separations between key words and the use of strongly articulate consonants fire each phrase; constant, heavy accents on each tactus sometimes worked against smooth singing of phrases.

Moving into the 19th century, we heard Anton Bruckner’s (1824-1896) “Locus iste” for four voices (1869), one of some 30 motets written by Bruckner, who was a devout Roman Catholic. Näf’s reading of it moved from the dramatic to the intimate, with much emphasis on the word “irreprehensibilis” (without reproof) in the middle imitative section.
‘This place was made by God,
A priceless mystery,
It is beyond reproach’.

Swiss composer Daniel Glaus (b. 1957) is a church musician and organist in Biel and teaches in music schools in Zurich and Berne. He is involved in questions concerning the building of organs and, in addition to music, engages in the study of philosophy, the Bible, art, butterflies and trees and political-economic-ecological-ethical issues to do with the environment. We heard “Teschuvah” (1989), a section of his oratorio “Sunt lacrimae rerum” (There are tears for things) with the composer’s life focus on religion, mysticism and the human voice coming together. With some of the singers placed at the back of the church and others either side of the stage, the audience was gently enveloped in sound, from that of one strand, of long held notes, to clusters, to a layering of vocal timbres, to a lavish polychoral effect; an atonal work, musically demanding of each singer, it retained ethereal lucidity throughout.

Swiss composer Frank Martin (1890-1974) composed his Mass for Double Choir during 1922 and1926, but the work remained out of sight (and out of hearing) for almost 40 years; the composer, a religious Calvinist, only released it for performance and publication in 1963. Martin wrote “I did not want it to be performed…I consider it…as being a matter between God and myself…that an expression of religious feelings should remain secret and removed from public opinion.” A work of lushness and scintillating beauty, it bears the influence of Austro-German discipline blended with the sensual sonorities of French music – that of Debussy, Ravel and Roussel. The Basler Madrigalisten performed three movements of the Mass, starting with an expressive and compassionate reading of the Kyrie, its long phrases woven in and out of the two choir groups, the Kyrie ending on the Picardian third. In the Gloria, the singers use their rich palette of gestures and the rhythm of words to build up power and intensity. In the Agnus Dei, added in 1926, Martin gives each choir a very different role – one sings in constant rhythmic movement, the other more polyphonic, with both uniting in the reverent “Dona nobis pacem”.

Franz Schubert composed the “Rosemunde” incidental music for a melodramatic play by Helmina von Chézy, “Rosemunde, Princess of Cyprus”, scored for soprano, chorus and orchestra. It was premiered in 1823, the play was a failure, the text was lost and what remains of this play with ballet and music are some much loved pieces of music. The Basler Madrigalisten, together with Paul Suits at the piano, gave the three choruses of the work a performance abounding in freshness, warmth and joie-de-vivre, with the second chorus “Geisterchor” (Chorus of Spirits) “In the Deep Dwells the Light” leading us, via a carefully blended choral sound, into the darker, more arcane world of characters who are brewing poisonous ink.

Also suiting the character of the Madrigalisten, we heard Johannes Brahms’ “Zigeunerlieder” (Gypsy Songs) opus 103 (1887). This collection of miniatures, its choral writing representing a straightforward approach to life’s issues, makes great demands on the pianist. Näf, the choir and Suits, working in close collaboration, created each vignette of gypsy life – its connections with nature, its wild characteristics, tender songs, longing, innocent moments, highly colored textures and intimacy – achieved by way of large dynamic contrasts and an in-depth understanding of the texts themselves.

This choir exudes energy and brightness of color, each voice section well-balanced, its performance forthright and polished. The choice of G.Rossini’s “La Passeggiata” as an encore was somewhat out of keeping with the evening’s program. The Basler Madrigalisten signed out with a jolly a cappella medley of Swiss folk songs (complete with the call of the cuckoo!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The PHOENIX Ensemble performs "French Delight - Songs of Wine and Love" at the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival

The Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary with a wide choice of concerts performed in the two Abu Gosh churches. Festival-goers came from far and wide to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the concerts, small outdoor musical events under the expansive trees, the craft stalls and a picnic in the natural surroundings of the Judean Hills in autumn. The Crypt below the Crusader Church, with its lively acoustics, is the venue for a host of chamber concerts. The church’s leafy, well-tended garden, with its flowers and mature palm trees, offers the visitor tranquility.

Four members of the PHOENIX Ensemble – Assif Am-David (baritone), Yasuko Hirata (Baroque violin), Marina Minkin (spinet) and PHOENIX founder and director Myrna Herzog (viol and recorder) performed “French Delight – Songs of Wine and Love” in the Crypt October 20th, 2011. The artists opened with a an anonymous 12th century Jongleur song “A l’entrada del temps clar” (When the clear days come) a jolly song celebrating spring, dance, love and fertility, sung in Occitan (a vernacular local to southern France and Spain and areas of Italy) with all the musicians joining in singing of the chorus.

Marina Minkin takes us into the realm of elegant French court music with the third prelude of François Couperin’s “L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin” (The Art of Playing the Harpsichord) - actually an 18th century instruction book containing information on technique, fingering, phrasing, ornamentation and keyboard performance style. Minkin’s performance of it is pensive, carefully paced and gently swayed. Couperin’s Concerts Royaux (Royal Concerts)were composed for the ailing Louis XIV and to be performed at the Sunday concerts at Versailles by renowned court musicians, including the composer himself. We heard a sympathetic reading of two movements from the Second Concert Royal, the Prelude played on bass viol and spinet, with Yasuko Hirata sculpting each musical gesture in the more Italienate Air Contrefugué.

In “Le Tombeau de Couperin” (1919), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) wished to celebrate “Le Grand” as a founder of the French school of keyboard music in a set of piano pieces written in the instrumental forms of Couperin’s time. In the Menuet (dedicated to the memory of Jean Dreyfus, one of the fallen of the First World War) Herzog plays the opening melody on recorder, later moving to the bass viol. Minkin’s abundant use of spreads adds a plucked texture and intensity to the melancholy character of the piece. A small tasty morsel was Francis Poulenc’s (1988-1963) Villanelle for pipeau (a French folk flute, chosen by the composer to lend an authentic aspect to the villanelle, a peasant song) and piano (1934). The piccolo role was played on recorder by Herzog in this miniature of French transparency and harmonic richness.

The program offered much variety of French vocal music. When Jean-Philippe Rameau’s (1683-1764) opera “Dardenus” (libretto: Charles-Antoine le Clerc) was premiered in 1739, the critics accused Rameau of creating an opera with no coherent plot; they claimed that the inclusion of the sea monster violated the French operatic convention of having a clear purpose for encounters with supernatural beings. Rameau eventually rewrote the tragédie en musique leaving out some of the supernatural elements. But, for those of us with a penchant for the fantastic and the bizarre, the “Monstre affreux” (Hideous Monster) number was a treat, its introduction already warning us that we were in for some full-on drama. Baritone Assif Am-David is convincing, dramatic and expressive, the piece’s range bringing out the pleasing mix of vocal color in Am-David’s high register.
‘Dread monster, fearsome monster,
Ah! How kind fate would be to me
If he exposed me only to no blows but yours!
Dread monster, fearsome monster
Ah! Love is much more terrible than you.’

This was followed by Rameau’s early cantata “Thétis” (c.1715), a work borrowing elements of French opera. Thétis is a very beautiful sea-goddess. The cantata tells of her being courted by both Zeus (Jupiter) god of the sky and weather (thunder included) and Poseidon (Neptune) ruler of the waves, both of whom demonstrate their power in a terrifying fashion. Thétis chooses to marry a mortal – Peleus - bearing him a son, Achilles. Herzog referred to this cantata as a feminist work.

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) used a poem of 16th century poet Clément Marot for his song “D’Anne jouent de l’espinette” (To Anne Who Plays the Spinet) of 1896. In this pre-World War I song, Am-David’s descriptive approach and fine French enunciation is coupled with Minkin’s strategically timed and refined playing, Ravel’s whimsical keyboard writing suggesting the young Anne at the spinet practicing. (Marina Minkin was playing on a triangular spinet, built in 1992 for Herzog in San Paulo, Brazil, by Abel Vargas.)
‘When I watch the pretty young brunette, and hear her voice and her fingers making a sweet sound on the keyboard, both my eyes and ears feel a greater pleasure than the saints in their immortal glory – and I become as glorious as they are when I think that she might love me a little.’

In keeping with all things French, the concert ended with four songs on the subject of food and wine, beginning, on a sad note, with Gabriel Fauré’s (1845-1924) “Tristesse” (Sadness) opus 6/2, composed originally for voice and piano. The text is from Gautier’s “La Comédie de la Mort” (The comedy of Death) (1838). This song, with its Parisian emphasis on the first, rather than second syllable and melodramatic refrain, takes the listener on an interesting and not-always-predictable melodic journey, with the violin adding bitter-sweet comments. Am-David weaves in the melodic line sensitively, also speaking some of the words…giving it a very French flavor.

It is fitting that Ravel’s last completed work, his song cycle for voice and orchestra “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” (Don Quixote to Dulcinea) (1932-33) to texts by Paul Morand, should refer back to his Spanish roots, both musically and in subject matter. The audience delighted in Am-David’s exuberant performance of the Drinking Song, a jaunty, sassy jota (Spanish song-dance form), enhanced by Minkin’s Spanish guitar effects on the spinet. Following J-B de Bousset’s (1662-1727) tamer drinking song, the concert ended with Gabriel Bataille’s (1575-1630) strophic courtly air “Qui veut chasser une migraine” (Whoever wants to chase away a migraine headache). Rife with dance rhythms, the lascivious text, peppered with the graphic details of rustic “courtship”, offers a dubious cure for the affliction – drink!
‘Water does nothing but rot the lungs,
Drink, drink, drink, friends!
Let’s empty this glass and fill it up again…’

Myrna Herzog does not hesitate to mix secular French works of the 17th- to 20th century in one program, and in no specific chronological order; and this works well! The PHOENIX arrangements, created partly by her and partly evolving from discussion among the players themselves, are pleasing and colorful and allow for individual expression. The intimate Crypt, with the festival audience seated on three sides of the stage, offers a very lively acoustic to players and singers and to the joy of listeners. The intermingling of church bells and the muezzin calling to prayer provide a meaningful background to the Abu Gosh events.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Barrocade Ensemble performs Italian Baroque music at the Khan Theatre, Jerusalem

The Barrocade Ensemble opened its 2011-2012 season with what might be called a “triptych” – three concerts within three days – “Sukkoth of Music and Wine in the Khan”. People attending the festive opening of the new season enjoyed a glass of wine from some of the best Israeli boutique wineries. This writer attended the third program – “La Serva Padrona” October 15th, 2011 at the Khan Theatre (Jerusalem).

Whetting one’s appetite for an evening of late Baroque Italian music, the ten Barrocade instrumentalists opened with Francesco Geminiani’s (1687-1762) Concerto Grosso opus 3, no.3 in E minor (1733). Clearly influenced by the practices of his teacher Corelli, with the concertino playing off the larger ripieno section, also adhering to the pattern of slow-fast-slow movements, the opus 3 collection nevertheless established Geminiani’s own personal style, a style that used more eccentric figurations and more daring harmonies and textures than did that of his teacher and mentor. Geminiani provides ornaments for both slow and fast movements as well as cadenzas, and he recommends the use of much vibrato. With its dense part-writing and small, jagged motifs, the music made for crowd-pleasing concert music in London, where the composer spent much of his working life as a virtuoso violinist, composer and pedagogue. And it is, indeed, fine concert music. With violinist Shlomit Sivan’s articulate leading, the Barrocade performance of the work was both lively and sensible in fast movements and expressive in the slow movements.

An interesting item on the program was Venetian violinist and composer Carlo Tessarini’s (c.1690-c.1767) Concerto for Violin and Strings in G major, opus 1 no.5, from his opus 1 set of 12 violin concertos, accompanied by strings and basso continuo, and first published in Amsterdam (1724). This was the Israeli premiere of the work, a mere 290 years after its composition! Professor Jehoash Hirshberg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), who, together with Professor Simon McVeigh (Goldsmiths, University of London), researched the subject of the Italian concerto, together publishing a modern score of Tessarini’s “Twelve Violin Concertos Opus 1” (A-E Editions, 2001), gave a brief talk on Tessarini’s life and music. Although a pupil of Corelli, the composer’s concertos were modeled on those of Vivaldi, Tessarini’s 15 years of work at the Ospedaletto in Venice having also taken a similar course to that of Vivaldi. After leaving Venice, Tessarini was then employed at Urbino Cathedral, later working in Paris and London and ending up in Amsterdam. Tessarini’s more than 40 concertos – 36 for violin - feature throughout the composer’s international career. His oeuvre consists exclusively of instrumental music. At the Barrocade concert, Shlomit Sivan was both soloist and orchestral player in Tessarini’s G major Concerto for Violin and Strings, competently showing the audience through the text which juxtaposes ritornello- and solo sections, boasting fast, nervous changes, presenting simple, direct melodies and inviting virtuosic playing. A work of unadulterated joy, it lacks the panache of the Vivaldi- and Corelli concertos.

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s (1710-1736) opera buffa “La Serva Padrona” (The Servant Turned Mistress), based on a play by Jacopo Angello Nelli, was premiered in Naples in 1733 and has never lost popularity. Only some 45 minutes in length, the opera was originally used as an intermezzo. Almost 300 years later, audiences still enjoy the elements that make up the libretto – a manipulative maidservant (Serpina) and her somewhat dimwitted bachelor employer (Uberto). The original score also calls for a silent manservant (Vespone). In the Barrocade production, however, Vespone (Yehuda Lazarovich) reveals all the undercurrents of the story in playwright Rachel Ezouz’s cleverly written patter of witty, rhyming Hebrew. Lazarovich’s performance is articulate and suitably droll. Soprano Revital Raviv is absolutely cut out for the role of the coquettish and scheming Serpina: her facial expressions and body language address each nuance of the text, her voice delighting the audience in its true and natural quality. Bass-baritone Oded Reich tackles the score well, his superbly rich voice pleasurable, as usual. Considering the plot’s high jinks, frivolity and characterization, I found his playing of Uberto somewhat too reserved. The instrumentalists engaged- and involved their audience in this delectable music, their communicative playing enhanced with precision, involvement and joyousness.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The PHOENIX Ensemble performs "Wind and Sea" at the Mormon University(Jerusalem)

David Feldman,Dorival Caymmi,Myrna Herzog (Photo: Eliahu Feldman)

The PHOENIX Ensemble performed “Wind and Sea”, a program of Brazilian music, on October 2nd 2011 in the Sunday Evening Series of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies (Mormon University). The concert focused on music of two of Brazil’s greatest composers – Dorival Caymmi and Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Dorival Caymmi (1914-2008), born in Salvador, the capital city of the Bahia region in the northeast of Brazil, was a singer, actor, painter and song-writer. He composed popular songs representative of Brazil’s indigenous song-forms – sambas, toadas (melancholy romantic tunes), modinhas (sentimental songs) songs and chants of fisherman, and music inspired by the singing of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion. His songs tell of people and places, of life and love in Bahia; he was a storyteller of the folkloric tradition, sensitively portraying simple, working people,

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) having learned music from his father, an educated amateur musician, was a ‘cellist who started life as a café musician. His music brought to light the wealth and variety of Brazilian music, enriched by the folk music he collected on his travels around Brazil. On one of his European tours, he was quoted as saying:” I don’t use folklore, I am the folklore”. Unconventional in his compositional style, his music is personal and idiosyncratic. “My music is natural, like a waterfall” points to his non-conformism. He became well known in the USA and France, where he conducted many of his orchestral works. An ardent patriot, Villa-Lobos was also a pedagogue, promoting the teaching of the rich culture of Brazilian music in his own country.

“Wind and Sea” is a program with a story behind it. The project began in 2000 with a conversation between PHOENIX Early Music Ensemble’s founder and musical director Dr. Myrna Herzog and Hanna Tsur, director of the Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival. On learning that Herzog was Brazilian, Hanna Tsur suggested adding some of Caymmi’s songs to the PHOENIX repertoire. What looked originally like a seemingly insane idea was to become reality when Herzog’s composer/jazz musician son, David Feldman, agreed to do the arrangements of Caymmi’s songs for the program. The first performances were received enthusiastically, with many people finding in Caymmi’s music an association with that of Villa-Lobos. “I felt the two composers complemented each other” writes Herzog, adding that she herself “took care of the Villa-Lobos arrangements”. In 2001, David Feldman came to Israel for the recording of “Wind and Sea” (NMC label); inspired by with the blessing of the great Dorival Caymmi himself, the recording includes the world premiere of a lullaby dedicated to Caymmi’s granddaughter and “godmother” of the project, Stella Caymmi. The disc has now been reissued.

The concert at the Center for Near Eastern Studies opened with a short recording of the message delivered in Portuguese by the late Dorival Caymmi, his voice ringing with aged wisdom, musicality and emotion. “For Myrna. Myrna, are you listening to me? This is Dorival Caymmi. I plead to God the Divine to bestow blessings to protect this work, such beautiful work you are doing, Myrna. Wholeheartedly, Dorival Caymmi.” With these words still echoing in one’s mind, the audience was then transported to the rich world of Brazilian folklore, ritual, nature, the gentle, lilting dance rhythms and “vistas” painted by Caymmi in fine, pastel tints mixed with a sensuous blend of timbres. “A lenda do Abaeté” (The Legend of Abaete), for example, tells of a dark lagoon illuminated by a white moon, the place imbued with magic and fear. Many of Caymmi’s songs tell of the sea and fishermen, of fishing as a livelihood as well as the ever present attraction of the sea. Chilean-born soprano Macarena Lopez-Lavin presented the nostalgic, well-loved “Ė doce morrer no mar” (It is Sweet to Die in the Sea) with much delicacy. In “Canto de Obá” (Song for Oba), considered one of Caymmi’s greatest songs, we experience the fusion of African- with Catholic church music. Brazilian-born singer and percussionist Joca Perpignan and young Israeli guitarist Omer Schonberger communicate within a bewitching collage of individual melodies and asymmetrical rhythms. Caymmi’s carefree samba “Maracangalha” (1956), which earned him the award of Best Composer of the Year, tells of this tiny community, of which there are many stories. Feldman’s arrangement of this song calls for both singers, its interludes spiced with gentle dissonances. Caymmi’s caressing musical style is evocative and stirring, yet never aggressive.
‘I’ll go to Malancangalha, I’ll go
I’ll go dressed in white, I’ll go
I’ll go in a straw hat, I’ll go
I’ll invite Anália, I will
If Anália doesn’t want to go, I’ll go alone….’

Herzog has referred to Heitor Villa-Lobos as the most important classical Brazilian composer. His nine Bachianas Brazileiras suites, composed 1930-1945 for different instrumental- and vocal combinations, blending harmonic and contrapuntal traits of Bach with the flavors of Brazilian music, abound with lush melodies and infectious rhythms. Indeed, they represent the soul itself, also using references to nature. The suites are infused with “saudade”, a feeling associated with a sense of longing, of being far away from one’s lover, from one’s country. “O trenzinho do caipira” (The Little Train of Caipira), the toccata that concludes Bachianas Brazileiras no 2 (1933), depicts a train chugging through the forests of Brazil; we hear Herzog and Schonberger alternating in the playing the melody, complete with train whistles and Joca Pepignan evoking the rhythm of the train’s motion with the use of the shaker/caxixi (an indirectly struck idiophone, considered in Brazilian folkloric beliefs to ward off evil spirits), set against the dissonant noise of the train. Lopez-Lavin, less guarded now, gave an emotional and well contrasted reading of the Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras V.

One of the strengths of this program is surely the finely blended sound and interest created by the instrumental scoring, the instrumentalists using meantone temperament – Riki Peled, Shmuel Magen and Herzog on viols, Omer Schonberger playing vilhuela and Baroque guitar, complemented by Pepignan’s imaginative and delicate percussion playing; add to this the fresh, reedy, precise and carefully understated playing of Alexander Fine on the Baroque bassoon and you get a timbre to titillate the senses. Macarena Lopez-Lavin is well attuned to her players, her singing finely nuanced. Joca Perpignan’s chocolaty, slightly gritty, natural voice and musicality are inebriating. For Myrna Herzog, “Wind and Sea” was “possibly the most beautiful project of my life”, bringing together her love for Brazilian music and the sound of viols with other early instruments. A truly delightful concert.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Derek Stein's watercolor studies of an orchestra and its players

(Photo Derek Stein)
“Usually, we think of an orchestra as a whole. The players wear, as it were, a common black uniform to emphasize their oneness. This is the public persona of the orchestra. And only the soloists and conductor stand out separately.”

This is how artist Derek Stein introduces the public to a collection of his paintings he calls “Diary of an Orchestra”, all in watercolor and pencil. Offering visitors to the recent Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival the opportunity to view the pictures at the concert venue, the exhibition, showing in the tranquil lounge of the Jerusalem International YMCA, opened September 24th 2011 and will continue till the end of October.

Derek Stein (b.UK), in Israel since 1969, teaches painting in watercolor and drawing. For nearly a year, he sat in on rehearsals of the Yad Harif Chamber Orchestra (director and conductor: Roni Porat), occasionally attending the orchestra’s concerts. Stein told me that what really fascinated him was watching the movement of the players and observing the relationship between players and orchestra as an organic whole. It was exciting to see how the conductor broke down the music in order to request emphasis on one note or a small phrase and how the players would respond to the urgency of the conductor. Stein speaks of music and art as both taking place in time, explaining that, on viewing a painting, you initially grasp the picture as a whole, but, in the process of observation, your eye moves around the picture, reconstructing it in sections. And then there are the artist’s associations: for him, the head of a double bass is evocative of the bow of a ship.

Rather than present the orchestra as a whole, Stein’s project “builds up the picture of the orchestra as a process” showing us the “intimacy between the individual players and their instruments, between the individual and the group”. As the project was getting under way, it seems the artist himself was undergoing his own process. He writes “It is now two months since I began and I feel within me how the music and the intensity of the players is affecting the organization of my page and even the movement of my brush”. Stein told me that each picture was painted in the span of no more than two hours, sketched very quickly in pencil and then worked on in color. Having identified the specific movement of the player that he wanted to show, it was a matter of waiting for it to return.

From many of the pictures in the exhibition, one becomes aware that Stein was mostly seated behind the orchestra. Viewing two violinists playing from one stand, one senses the connection between them. In a painting showing a female double bass player dressed in black, Stein has added a few small pencil sketches of other players at one side; these relate to the image of the double bass player. A picture of the woodwind section features a play of the diagonal direction of the instruments, matched by the players “moving forward” in the act of playing. In another painting, a trumpeter’s back, shoulders and position of the head reflect the effort of blowing a brass instrument. In “Costa Tuning His ‘Cello”, on the other hand, the player is slumped on a bench, relaxed, yet listening and very focused.

Stein’s awareness of the conductor as leader is clear in all the pictures showing Roni Porat. The conductor’s hands say it all. One picture of the Yad Harif Chamber Orchestra performing a concert in the YMCA auditorium brings us back to the uniform black clothes of orchestral players. Once again, the instrumentalists appear to be moving towards Porat. Stein sees an orchestra as a picture of black and white. Here, the music on a stand provides an “area of light”.

One painting with a humorous touch was inspired by a program called “Fantasy for Chimpanzee and Orchestra”, based on “Report to an Academy”(1917), a short story by Kafka, to music composed by Porat. In the story, an ape called Red Peter has learned to behave like a human being and presents the story of this transformation to an academy. Stein’s whimsical take on it has a chimpanzee placed close to the double bass player.

Thought-provoking and pleasurable to the eye, the exhibition will interest those who enjoy the understatement of watercolor as well as concert-goers and musicians alike.