Thursday, May 21, 2015

Yuri Medianik (bayan, conductor), Olga Scheps (piano) and Avi Avital (mandolin) perform "La Tempesta dei Solisti" at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Yuri Medianik
At a unique concert, held in the Recanati Auditorium of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on May 19th 2015, the Israel Camerata Jerusalem hosted three soloists – conductor, violinist and bayan-player Yuri Medianik, pianist Olga Scheps and Israeli mandolin artist Avi Avital.

If this seems like an unconventional combination of artists and repertoire, it worked well when one considers the wide variety of musical taste each of the three artists displays. Yuri Medianik (b.1983, Ukraine), a graduate of the Tchaikovsky Moscow State University (violin) and the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music (bayan), also works closely with jazz musicians and with actors. His CD “A Recollection of Piazzolla” is among his most internationally acclaimed recordings. In a short film clip shown at the event, 29-year-old Moscow-born Olga Scheps, a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician today living in Germany, spoke of her love of vocal music and of lighter music genres. Born in Beer Sheva in 1978, Avi Avital, known for his exemplary performance of Baroque music - in particular of Vivaldi and Bach - performs music by such composers as Dvorak, Piazzolla, Bloch and Villa Lobos, as well as new works (of which has commissioned some 90), also engaging in klezmer- and much folk-oriented music from Bulgaria, Romania, Spain, Cuba, etc. Disturbed at playing so many works arranged for mandolin, one of his aims is to “redefine the mandolin and its repertoire”. Avi Avital presently resides in Berlin.

The program opened with Yuri Medianik performing Felix Mendelssohn’s “Spinning Song”, arranged from Book 6 of the composer’s “Songs without Words” (piano) for bayan, a type of chromatic button accordion developed in Russia in the early 20th century. The artist’s playing of it was easeful and virtuosic, dynamic and bristling with vitality, its gossamer-featured details all present and sent to the audience with the wink of an eye. This was followed by the Bulgarian Suite (1975) for bayan by Russian bayan-player and composer Viacheslav Semionov (b.1946). Medianik gave shape, life and color to the folk-dance-based outer movements, to their inebriating rhythms and their innate melodiousness. His playing of the somewhat melancholy middle movement “Sevdana”, mostly lighter-textured in scoring than the outer movements, was touching, personal and expressive.

In preparation for the performance of two Bach concertos, string players and the harpsichordist of the Israeli Camerata Jerusalem took their places on stage. Yuri Medianik returned, this time as the conductor and a very fastidious, elegant and expressive conductor he is, too. He conducted Avi Avital and the orchestra in J.S.Bach’s Concerto for violin in A-minor BWV 1041, with Avital playing the solo violin part on mandolin, in a performance that had people in the audience sitting at the edges of their seats. With Avital involved in a recent recording of  Vivaldi works, here was a concerto on the traditional Italian three-movement model, in which we heard soloist and orchestra collaborating to achieve a fine sense of balance; Avital’s playing, whether highlighting a solo passage or integrating with the orchestra, was audible and meaningful at all times. The outer movements were loaded with young energy, their pizzazz and excitement gripping yet remaining noble, Avital’s playing never resorting to rough showmanship. His performance of the Andante movement was fragile and moving, the delicate flexing of its melodies and pianississimo moments, supported by Medianik, indicative of his winning, human musical language. In Bach’s Concerto for keyboard in G-minor BWV 1056, adapted for mandolin and orchestra by Avital himself, the mandolin artist’s exquisite understanding and faultless reading of the work left me not missing the harpsichord’s presence at all, with some nice spreads appearing, nevertheless reminding the listener of the work’s origins. The Largo’s meditative and finely chiseled filigree melodies found their way to the back of the Recanati Hall and into the listener’s heart, to then be swept aside by an exhilarating and hearty rendering of the final Presto. In fresh and sparkling playing, Bach’s musical language is at the forefront when in the hands of Avital and Medianik. A great virtuoso of our time, Avi Avital’s infectious sense of joy and music-making has his audience with him all the way.  For his encore, he chose a Bulgarian folk melody/dance, presented in performance that was peppered with spontaneity and vivacity in playing that was dynamic and high-powered.

Following a short intermission, the musical scene changed once again. The Camerata string players were joined by some of their fellow wind players for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no.1 opus 23 in B-flat minor, a version arranged and reduced for small orchestra by Ilan Rechtman. Olga Scheps was piano soloist. Composed in 1874, the concerto was revised some four years later and then again in 1889. From the forthright opening chords, the work’s puissant hallmark, Scheps’ playing was gregarious, full-blooded and varied, utilizing a fine mix of her impressively competent and powerful technique and her taste for the delicate, the lyrical and the sensitive in music, her cadenza strategic, scintillating, rich and imaginative.  Medianik’s direction brought out the work’s drama and “narrative”; naturally enough, both he and Scheps gave expression to Russian elements present in the work.  Add to these some very pleasing wind-playing on the part of the Camerata instrumentalists. In the tender Andantino, sprinkled with delightful instrumental solos, Scheps attentively wove the piano role through and out of the orchestral fabric with eloquence and with superb agility, following it with the final “Allegro con fuoco” movement in playing that was of grandeur and depth. For her encore, Olga Scheps chose to play the third movement “Precipitato” of Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata no.7 (one of his three War Sonatas), a veritable feat of driving, unrelenting, percussive dissonances reflecting the tensions of war, its frenetic course colored by the occasional jazzy element and finally establishing the more positive message of the B-flat major harmony.
Avi Avital  photo:Uwe Arens,Deutsche Grammophon


Olga Scheps photo: Felix Broede


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