Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Atar Trio in a concert from Tartini to Piazzolla at the Redeemer Church, Jerusalem

With the cool winds of Autumn about to make themselves felt in Jerusalem, people made the best of the pleasant, balmy evening of September 27th 2014 to attend a “Summer Nights in the Courtyard” concert of the Atar Trio and sip a glass of wine in the medieval cloister courtyard of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Atar Trio – pianist Ofer Shelley, violinist Tanya Beltzer and ‘cellist Marina Katz – regularly performs in the tranquil surroundings of this church. The concert was called for 21:00 in the hope that the bird population lodging in the rich foliage of the courtyard would have ceased their twittering and be asleep for the night.

Following words of welcome by the Provost of the Church of the Redeemer, Wolfgang Schmidt, the concert opened with Giuseppe Tartini’s (1692-1770) Trio Sonata in G major, one of the composer’s “30 Sonate piccole”. In a work rich in Romantic lyricism and charm, violinist Tanya Beltzer was in her element with Tartini’s virtuosic writing, his deep and strong feelings, as she gave expression to the refined, poignant and ornamental writing of one of the greatest violinists and theorists of the 18th century. Remaining in Italy, we heard Tomaso Albinoni’s (1671-1751) enigmatic “Adagio” (composed largely or wholly by 20th century musicologist Remo Giazotto), a piece that has undergone endless arrangements, also serving as background music in films and television series and bandied around by pop singers and jazz pianists. The Atar Trio has devised its own arrangement of the well-known piece, making use of textures, contrast and a little flexing of melodic lines.

Then to a work from the most Classical repertoire for piano trio, Haydn’s Trio in C major, Hob. XV:21, one of three trios published in 1797 and dedicated to a London friend, Theresa Bartolozzi. Although it belongs to repertoire associated with the amateur musician of the time, here is chamber music at its best, with the demanding piano part attesting to Ms. Bartolozzi’s undisputed competence on the piano. The Atar players communicated the work’s lyrical grace, its intensity, its moments of tranquility and Haydnesque major-minor playfulness, as well as the work’s intrinsically conversational aspect. With the first notes of the opening Allegro, the bird population of the Redeemer Church courtyard, clearly Haydn aficionados, awoke to accompany the work with effusive twittering. The Haydn Trio was followed by “Duett”, the third piece from Robert Schumann’s (1810-1856) Fantasiestücke Op.88, its gentle dialogue between violin and ‘cello played out over Shelley’s sensitive piano accompaniment.

The second half of the program consisted of a group of dances – a potpourri of works by various composers from different countries and in a number of very different styles – beginning with a Tango by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), played with sensuous melancholy, its sultry Latin temperament enhanced by the use of rubato. Still in Argentinean mode, the players gave an outstanding performance of “Autumn” (1969) from “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires” by the grand master of the “new” tango Ástor Piazzolla (1921-1992); in playing radiant with freedom, emotion and color, the Atar Trio gave expression to the piece’s sophisticated blend of Classicism and jazz, its intensity and mood changes, as they wove virtuosic solos into the texture. The Atar Trio’s performance of “Three Irish Dances”, arranged by versatile Nashville master fiddler Craig Duncan, was songful, hearty and foot-tapping, the ‘cello (Marina Katz) often taking the role of second violin. Two pieces adapted from Marc Lavry’s “Three Jewish Dances for Piano” (1945) provided the program with Israeli content: played with much delicacy and a hint of percussion (on the part of Katz), the “Yemenite Wedding Dance” evoked a demure Yemenite bride performing the dance in small steps with gentle, circular hand movements. Another pleasing arrangement played with verve and abandon, Lavry’s “Hora”, a lively and earthy Israeli dance, conjured up the energy and joy of the popular Israeli dance. Born in Latvia, Lavry (1903-1967) was the first composer to introduce the hora into Israeli art music. Another hora played – the popular encore piece “Hora Staccato” – by Romanian composer and violin virtuoso Grigoraş Dinicu (1889-1949), was given a splendid performance by Tanya Belzer, who took on board the piece’s huge technical demands - staccato bowing, rapid note successions, witty scales and spicy verve. The concert ended with sympathetic arrangements of two New Year songs written by the “first lady of Israeli song and poetry” Naomi Shemer (1930-2004).

The Atar Trio’s playing addresses many styles. Not confining its concerts only to conventional trio repertoire, the three artists offer their listeners high quality across-the-board programs. This outdoor concert was no exception. The audience was well entertained.

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