Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Piano and opera artists perform at Romania's 2013 National Day celebrations in Tel Aviv

A special concert of piano- and opera works was held as part of the 2013 National Day of Romania Celebrations at the Enav Cultural Center, Tel Aviv, on December 10th. Artists performing were soprano Dika Pilosoph and pianists Sofia Mazar and Andrei Licaret.

Dr. Gina Pană, director of the Romanian Cultural Institute in Tel Aviv, opened the most significant day of the Romanian nation by pointing out that 2013 has been a year of very many Romanian cultural projects in Israel, a year also commemorating 65 years of bilateral relations between the countries. Among these cultural activities, many of interest to Romanian-born Israelis, she mentioned the fact that four Romanian opera soloists had performed here of late. Next year, the Romanian Cultural Institute in Israel will be celebrating ten years since its establishment.

Following words of welcome from Mrs. Andreea Păstârnak, Romanian Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Irina Cajal-Marin, Undersecretary of State of the Ministry of Culture of Romania, spoke of the evening's event as rich in classical music and folk culture. She mentioned the long-standing presence of Jewish culture in Romania, an important example being that the Jewish Theatre in Romania, established in 1876 under the management of Avram Goldfaden, was the first Yiddish theatre group.

Prior to the concert, guests were shown a part of “Wild Carpathia” (2011), a film by Charley Ottley (UK) giving insight into the breathtaking natural beauty of the Carpathian Mountains and Forests - this great European wilderness, its villages, its animal life, traditions and history.

Accompanied by pianist Sofia Mazar, Romanian-born soprano Dika Philosoph performed three opera arias. The singer opened with a fresh, theatrical rendering of Marguerite’s aria - the “Jewel Song” - from Charles-François Gounod’s “Faust”; she gave a spicy, coquettish performance of the aria sung by Marguerite, a village maiden, whose head is turned by a handsome stranger and by jewels. As the Sicilian duchess held hostage in Giuseppe Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani”, Philosoph used the stage well, her easeful singing dealing with the aria’s vocal challenges. Philosoph concluded with an intense, sensuous and heartrending performance of “Quando men vo” from Act 2 of Giacomo Puccini’s ”La Bohème”, in which the young Musetta is attempting to attract the attention of her ex-lover Marcello:
‘When walking alone on the streets,
People stop and stare
And examine my beauty
From head to toe…
And then I savor the cravings
Which from their eyes transpires
And from the obvious charms they perceive
The hidden beauties…’
In Israel as of 2005, Dika Philosoph is a member of the Israeli Opera’s Opera Studio. Her natural stage presence, dramatic flair and large, energetic and flexible voice made for convincing and gripping performances of these 19th and early 20th century opera numbers. Sofia Mazar’s skilful piano accompaniments evoked the different moods of these arias. Born in the Ukraine, Mazar today is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; she also teaches piano and works as a vocal coach.

Romanian pianist Andrei Licaret (b. Bucharest, 1982) began piano studies with his father at age five and made his orchestral debut when he was 11. He has performed concerts and recitals all over Europe, in the UK, the USA and Israel. Licaret opened with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sonata no.15 in D major opus 28, the name “Pastoral” having being added not by the composer but by his publisher. Composed in 1801, this is the most conventional of the group of sonatas composed by Beethoven at that time, but it is in no way pedestrian. Andrei Licaret recreated its tranquility with youthful energy. He presented its unity and mastery, giving the opening movement a poetic reading, its outbursts moderate, without disturbing the movement’s sense of well-being. The processional Andante, with its quasi-pizzicato accompaniment, includes a whimsical Trio, the Andante subject much ornamented on its return. Licaret’s playing of the Scherzo brought out the movement’s humor and temperament. His playing of the Finale evoked its rich variety of ideas and moods - from pensive to charming, from hearty to dramatic. The pianist’s performance was pleasingly unmannered, Classical in concept, clean and transparent.

The Pavane from George Enescu’s Suite no.2 in D opus 10 provided the concert’s Romanian content. Enescu composed the suite for a composition competition run by the French music magazine “Musica” in 1903, submitted it anonymously and won first prize. Infused with distinctively Debussyian, Impressionistic French flavor, hinting at the harmonic subtlety of Enescu’s teacher Gabriel Fauré, this piano repertoire is unjustly neglected in today’s concert halls outside of Romania. Licaret revealed the piece’s delicacy and extraordinary detail in playing that was imaginative, sensitively layered and light of touch.

The concert concluded with Andrei Licaret’s performance of Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata no.3 opus 58. Composed in the summer of 1844, before the composer’s health was to deteriorate due to tuberculosis, no.3 is his last piano sonata and large-scale work. Licaret launched into the rich and majestic opening subject of the first movement, juxtaposing it with the singing, gossamer textures of the second subject, one gesture emanating from the former and gliding effortlessly into the next. Following his agile, light and sparkling playing of the Scherzo, we heard the lengthy Largo movement, with its cantabile and graceful gestures. Here, the pianist’s playing offered breadth and respite. In the Finale, a piece of unsurpassed difficulty, Licaret presented its urgency, vigor and excitement with brilliant passagework, building it up strategically and consolidating its musical ideas. An outstanding and profound artist!

Following the festive concert, all adjourned to the foyer of the Enav Cultural Center, where Dr. Paulina Popoiu, General Director of the National Village Museum opened “Portraits of People”, an exhibition of traditions from ethnic communities living in Romania, emphasizing Romania’s multiculturalism in which ethnic entities have each preserved their own cultures.

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