Monday, February 29, 2016

The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and soloists in two versions of "Pimpinone"
Two versions of “Pimpinone” were the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s bill for the 4th concert of the 2015-2016 season. This writer attended the event on February 25th 2016 in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem YMCA. The first setting heard was that of Tomaso Albinoni to the libretto of Pietro Pariati, the second, that of Georg Philipp Telemann, with the same Italian libretto translated into German and revised by Johann Philipp Praetorius. JBO founder and musical director David Shemer conducted the performance (not from the harpsichord), with baritone Guy Pelc as Pimpinone in both settings; mezzo-soprano Anat Czarny played Vespetta in the Albinoni opera, with Einat Aronstein portraying Vespetta in the Telemann version.

“Pimpinone” or “The Mismatched Marriage” is a comic intermezzo, the genre of intermezzi buffi serving as lavish entertainment, respite or comic relief between acts of larger operas. There are, in fact, a number of versions of the work’s theme and plot. (Pergolesi’s more frequently performed “La serva padrona” was written in 1733.) Vespetta (little wasp) – a cunning servant girl - and Pimpinone – a wealthy, foolish, gullible old bachelor - are stock 18th century intermezzo characters. Pimpinone engages Vespetta as his maidservant, falls in love with her and marries her. Vespetta quickly turns everything to her advantage and the marriage is conducted totally on her terms, with Pimpinone becoming her victim and forced to weaken to her every whim. “Pimpinone”, a satire on everyday Venetian life, raises the question of conflict between social classes.

Albinoni’s “Vespetta e Pimpinone”, one of the earliest surviving Venetian intermezzi, was first performed in 1708 in Venice as an interlude to his own opera “Astarto”; it enjoyed immediate success, becoming a standard work of opera repertoire. In Albinoni and Pariati’s user-friendly opera, its  rakish fast succession of brief arias and duets, charming melodies, a quirky use of counterpoint and a parlando style highlighting the amusing text, make for fine entertainment. Anat Czarny’s light, creamy, unforced voice was well suited to the medium as she threw Pimpinone flirtatious looks, turning to the audience saucily to inform it of the cunning Vespetta’s personal agenda. Guy Pelc, not comical enough in his role as the befuddled, stupid and perhaps uncouth Pimpinone (some facial expressions and body language borrowed from the commedia dell’arte would add a little more of the absurd, giving Pimpinone a touch of lust and irritability) as he presented the text with articulate transparency, his experience in the various aspects of Baroque style apparent throughout. Albinoni’s comical writing of the duets, in which each character states conflicting sentiments, came across splendidly. Hebrew and English translations of both “Pimpinone” versions, flashed onto a screen, making sure the listener missed nothing of the whimsical text.

For Telemann’s German-language setting of “Pimpinone”, we heard soprano Einat Aronstein as Vespetta, with Pelc as Pimpinone. First performed in 1725 in Hamburg, Telemann adhered to the Hamburg practice of some of the arias being sung in Italian, with the rest of the text in German. Not often heard today, the work represents Telemann’s writing at its best, the composer’s sophisticated musical score coupled with his bent for language and flair for humour on stage. Aronstein presented the upbeat, frilly, flirtatious and mischievous side of the waspish Vespetta, her bright, flexible voice gliding effortlessly up into its high register, as she teased the audience (and poor Pimpinone) with an occasionally over-extended dissonance at the end of an aria. Pelc’s singing flowed in beautifully-formed phrases as he used the composer’s clever onomatopoeic use of words to dress up the absurdity of the situation. In “So that she may speak badly of her husband”, the most dazzling aria of the last intermezzo, young Pelc’s outstanding singing showed his vocal control and elasticity as he shifted back and forth between his natural voice and falsetto in a patter song bristling with mockery, threats and vocal challenges! Then, as in Albinoni’s work, Pimpinone and Vespetta’s marriage troubles come to a head. In the Albinoni version he threatens to beat her with a stick, in the Telemann version it is she who will take a stick to him…such is life in a mismatched marriage.

Contrary to the disharmony of the plot, Maestro Shemer led his ensemble of fine instrumentalists in playing that was alive with interest, fine detail and Baroque elegance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Amaya Piano Trio performs Mozart, Debussy and Shostakovich at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Jerusalem

Lea Tuuri, Lauri Rantamoijanen, Batia Murvitz
“The Best of Chamber Music” seemed the appropriate category for the Amaya Trio’s recent concert tour of Israel. This writer attended their concert at the Eden-Tamir Music Centre, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem on February 20th 2016. Members of the trio are pianist Batia Murvitz (Israel), violinist Lea Tuuri (Finland) and ‘cellist Lauri Rantamoijanen (Finland). The Amaya Trio was formed in 2011. Batia Murvitz and Lea Tuuri have collaborated since 2004, when they were students at Indiana University. Lauri Rantamoijanen joined them in 2011. The trio has performed in Cyprus, Austria, India and Finland, playing classical chamber music repertoire as well as contemporary music. A piece by Finnish composer Jens Linqvist has been commissioned by the Amaya Trio. “Amaya” is Japanese for “night rain”.

The program opened with W.A.Mozart’s Piano Trio in B-flat major. The artists’ interpretation of the opening Allegro revealed its thematic economy (and Mozart’s experimentation) and occasional surprises, their playing clean, communicative, both delicate and intense in its contrapuntal moments. A piano solo issues in the gracious Larghetto, in which Murvitz and Tuuri engaged in a moving dialogue, their playing of the final Allegretto movement moved between hearty energy and elegant subtlety; here, the ’cello was given a role of higher profile as Murvitz juggled the two separate voices carried by the piano. Here was Mozart’s salon music played with Classical good taste, a sense of wellbeing and mindful balancing of the joie de vivre and sophistication of Mozart’s mature chamber style.

We then heard Claude Debussy’s Piano Trio in G major (1880), the composer’s only piano trio. Written at age 18, its style not yet bearing the hallmarks of the composer’s later highly distinctive Impressionistic language, the work displays flair and youthful joy. Written during the summer the composer was employed by Mme von Meck (Tchaikovsky’s patron) to teach her children, accompany her 27-year-old daughter’s singing, play duets with von Meck herself and perform daily chamber music recitals, Debussy toured through central Europe with the family. The score was lost, to be found in Paris a century after it was composed.  It was the fantasy and imagination of the Amaya players that lent sophistication to their reading of the youthful work, as they gently flexed phrases, taking the audience into the sweeping Romantic lines of the opening Andante, contrasting fuller textures with “asides” and allowing each phrase to arise naturally from its predecessor. The players smiled as they presented the Scherzo, a jaunty, witty, quasi-macabre dance as a small theatre piece, framed by energetic staccato textures and offering fine solo moments in the middle section. The Intermezzo (3rd movement), bristling with sombre, songful melodies, was given an indulgent, tender and well-shaped realization by the strings against a light, sympathetic piano accompaniment. The artists gave the Finale, its mix of styles and erratic ideas just another enigma of the piece, a variety of rich timbres and moods, summarizing the wealth of ideas flowing from the young composer, these later to be sifted and filtered into Debussy’s Impressionist style.

Taking their leave from the exuberance of the Mozart and Debussy works, the Amaya Trio concluded the recital with Shostakovich’s Piano Trio no.2 in e-minor opus 67. Composed in 1944 and flooded with sadness on the death of the composer’s friend musicologist Ivan Sollertinsky and for victims of the Holocaust, the work is one of the most challenging and exposed of its genre, its germ the extraordinary, desolate and uncompromising opening notes, with the ‘cello (Rantamoijanen) setting the scene with overtones sounding above the violin. To me, the element creating the hauntingly estranged atmosphere of the work, providing a very active listening experience, is the constantly independent nature of each of the roles of the three instruments; the artists gave themselves to this convincingly. As to the cynical, unrelenting Allegro con brio - the feisty, intense 2nd movement peopled with demons -  the players tossed off its frantic-mirthful agenda with fitting energy. Then to Murvitz’ imposing presentation of the stark chorale (Largo movement), its weighty, deliberating (somewhat unpredictable) chords a joyless backdrop to the dissonance-infused conversation taking place between the strings, the fusion of these elements forming a tragic and heartrending canvas. And there was no soft-pedalling in the final movement, an Allegretto bearing what for Shostakovich were Jewish melodic and modal associations. Here, Tuuri gave her playing a folksy twinge. Rantamoijanen’s emotional involvement in the work added depth to the gripping musical experience.  With motifs of former movements appearing, the artists drew together the threads of one of the most tragic works of chamber music repertoire.  

The audience at the Eden-Tamir Music Center was enthusiastic in its response to this versatile, rewarding and well-balanced program. The Amaya players’ sincere and deep enquiry into works performed and their years of collaboration make for outstanding chamber music performance

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Festive festival fare at the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival

Taking place at the Dan Hotel Eilat from February 3rd to 6th 2016, the 11th Eilat Chamber Music Festival offered a number of events that were different from conventional concert fare, highlighting the fact that this was…a festival, and certainly one of Israel’s best.

Roe and Anderson (photo:Maxim Reider)
The Anderson & Roe Piano Duo’s first performance, “The Rite of Spring”, promised to be a concert played by two young and outstanding pianists, but Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson are a duo with a difference! They formed their partnership in 2002 at the Juilliard School of Music and nowadays tour extensively as recitalists and orchestra soloists, they compose and engage in much arranging of works and they present their audiences with action-packed, polished and mind-boggling concerts that keep the listener perched on the edge of his seat. Relaxed and chatty, they talk about the works to be performed. But they bring to the concert hall much more than hype: whether you like their quirky explanations or not, their playing creates a kaleidoscope of vibrant musical canvases. Opening the February 3rd program with Johannes Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn opus 56B (two pianos), they colored the work with magically sensitive and contrasted playing, fine shaping, majestic gestures and with the mystery of what lies behind sotto voce playing. Their reading of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (one piano) conjured up the power, cruelty and paganism of the ballet’s storyline, gripping the audience with the work’s asymmetry and jarring accents, their musical description of the sword lethal and uncompromising. But their playing was not just muscular: it was strategically timed, conveying the ballet’s message of estrangement and aloneness. Whisking away the intensity of the “Rite of Spring”, Anderson and Roe played their own arrangement of much-loved melodies from Mozart operas, with playful, opera-buffa-joy and wonderfully cantabile melodies, rounding the number off with their virtuosic, full-on “Ragtime alla Turca”. Their “Carmen thriller” arrangement for two pianos set before the listener so many aspects of Bizet’s “Carmen” – the story’s complexity, its love content, the darker side of gypsy life and much fiery energy. And how delicate and filigree-fine their rendition of the Ballet from Gluck’s “Orphée et Eurodice” was, describing love of a totally different nature, the program ending with a touching rendition of Bob Thiele and George David Weiss’s “What a Wonderful World” (1967), Roe and Anderson’s playing sparkling with optimism and tenderness.

Marianna Vasileva (photo:Maxim Reider)
A large audience filled the Tarshish Hall at the Dan Hotel on February 6th to hear violinist Marianna Vasileva (Russia-Israel) perform all 24 of Niccolò Paganini’s Caprices.  Apart from only one other piece, Paganini’s only violin publication was this set of solo Caprices, published in 1820, probably written between 1801 and 1817. Considered the last word in violin technique, they were dedicated to “all artists” and comprise nearly all his prized violin techniques (they do not include artificial harmonics) in exceptionally demanding settings. Paganini never performed them in public. Not merely etudes, Vasileva has referred to some as “folk music”, with Paganini infusing the miniatures with music he was hearing around him. Vasileva has been working on the pieces for two years and claims that this will be an ongoing project for years to come. Dazzling and, indeed, winning the audience with their intricacies, the artist gave expression to the pieces’ charm and intensity and to the many contrasts between- and within them, to the violin’s many techniques but, above all, to the work’s musical interest.   Presenting of the individual character of each piece, she held the listeners’ attention for the duration of the work. For many people attending the recital, it would have been their first encounter with the mystery and inner-voiced tremolo of “The Trill” (no.6), the imitation of wind instruments in “The Hunt” (no.9) and the sheer virtuosity of “The Devil’s Laughter” (no.13).

Francois Salque, Victor Peirani (photo:Maxim Reider)
“Just About Midnight” on February 4th was an opportune time for night owls to indulge in a rich and unique program of classical music, tango, jazz, gypsy- and new music, performed and improvised by two French artists – ‘cellist François Salque and accordionist/composer Vincent Peirani. In fact, Salque, one of the most outstanding and interesting ‘cellists of his generation and no new face to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, had performed Chopin’s Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano in g-minor opus 65 (piano: Ivan Rudin) the previous day. A personal project of Salque and Peirani’s has been collecting and recording traditional music of Central- and Eastern Europe. The concert opened with a fervent and moving reading of Ernest Bloch’s “Prayer” (1924), followed by the Peirani/Mienniel setting of Astor Piazzolla’s “Alone, All Alone”, commencing as a meditative, nostalgic mood piece, then breaking into exuberant bravura.  There was Milena Dolinova/Krystof Maratka’s Czardas IV, beginning with a sweetly sentimental section, to be followed by the wild, brilliant czardas itself and Bohemian composer/’cellist David Popper’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” (1894) also starting in a quasi-improvisational style, sending the ‘cello into its highest register before moving on to its inevitable excited agenda. Salque and Peirani paid vibrant homage to French gypsy culture with their sensitive and imaginative playing of works by Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. And what could constitute more poignant night music than Vincent Peirani’s “Choral” – a modal piece, evocative of the pipe organ - so introspective, calm and suave. Vincent Peirani’s profound musicianship and aesthetic sense are what put him in a class on his own. Peirani and François Salque’s performance lent the nocturnal concert a classy, sophisticated aura.

Trilogy (photo:Maxim Reider)
If concert-goers attending “Breaking Bad” at 23:00 on February 5th were expecting to end the day with a soothing musical “night-cap’, they we presented with a wake-up call to a new concert experience, in which classical music can exist alongside popular-, jazz- and film music. The Belgian-based ensemble “Trilogy” was formed in 2011 by classical violinists Hrachya Avanesyan, Lorenzo Gatto and Yossif Ivanov. The three brilliant artists achieved overnight recognition with their first video “Pulp Fiction”. Addressing the audience, Avanesyan referred to the program as a “summary of the ensemble’s work”. At the Eilat event, the violinists were joined by Alexander Gurning (piano, electronic keyboard) and Eddie Francisque (percussion) in a performance of verve and high amplification! The program opened with Trilogy’s transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto in a-minor RV522 for three violins and piano Their setting of the Bizet-Giraud “Carmen” Suite was given a sympathetic reading, with John Williams’ dejected and melancholic “Schindler’s List” theme empathic and highly sensitive. The artists’ sense of music as a game to be played was reflected in the ensemble’s arrangement of “Man with a Harmonica” from Ennio Morricone’s 1968 soundtrack to “Once upon a Time in the West”. If in Brahms’ Hungarian Dance no.1 (1869) they offered a mix of mellow playing with Roma-gypsy temperament, the artists’ pulsating, energetic, revved up performance of Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” (1942) prepared listeners for the energy level of these young players would accelrate as the night wore on. Later items on the program featured such pieces as a medley from “Daft Punk” and music from “Pulp Fiction” in performances of devil-may-care, unleashed energy and undaunted pluck, as the players let their hair down to show festival-goers what classical musicians are made of!

Exciting, enriching and of a high standard, the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival drew large crowds to its events. Leonid Rozenberg has been the festival’s general and artistic director since its inception 11 years ago. Concerts were introduced by Yossi Schiffmann. As in former years, the staff of the Dan Hotel (manager: Mr. Lior Mucznik) went out of their way to make concert-goers welcome, adding festival sparkle to the four days.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Notes from the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival - orchestras without conductors - Concerto Koeln (Germany) and Les Dissonances (France)

Concerto Koeln (photo: Maxim Reider)
The 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival featured two orchestras playing without conductors…in the conventional sense. Concerto Köln, one of the first orchestras to play in the festival’s 11-year existence, has been involved in historically informed performance for 30 years. As members of a self-governed orchestra, the musicians carry a high degree of responsibility for performance results. Concerto Köln is known for its interest in the performance of little-known Baroque works; this was evident in “Händel and the Italian Baroque”, the ensemble’s first concert on February 5th, which featured Dutch mezzo-soprano Rosanne van Sandwijk. Most of the audience would not have been familiar with the first work – Concerto Grosso opus 5 no.6 in D-major by Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco (1675-1742) – the performance affirming the argument for hearing more of Dall’Abaco’s music. A composer and performer at the Austrian court of Maximilian II and influenced by Vivaldi’s style, Dall’Abaco’s works have been brought to the public “ear” by Concerto Köln. Other instrumental works on the program were a spirited and well contrasted performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto for ‘Cello, Strings and basso continuo in D-minor RV 407 (soloist: Werner Matzke)and Giovanni Battista Sammartini’s Sinfonia in A-major. Rosanne van Sandwijk performed a splended selection of excerpts from a number of Händel works, opening with “Donna, che in ciel di tanta luce splendi”, highlighting its drama as she held the players in constant eye contact. She gave elegance and delicacy to Ruggiero’s aria from “Alcina”, “Mi lusinga il dolce affetto”, contending well with its rapid Neapolitan runs and trills, offering a well ornamented performance of “Cara Speme” (Giulio Cesare). In (Giovanni Battista Ferrandini or) Händel’s sacred cantata “Il pianto di Maria Vergine”, Sandwijk gave gripping, poignant and vehement expression to Mary’s grief, reproachful anger and torment.

Concerto Köln’s second concert featured four of the six Brandenburg Concertos - Italian-flavoured concerti grossi presented by J.S.Bach to the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1721. With each concerto differently scored, here was an opportunity to hear Concerto Köln’s various players in different ensemble combinations. They began with a fresh, vivid reading of No.3, its minimal second movement remaining enigmatic to many of us, then to No.5, graced with transverse flute (Cordula Breuer) with Gerald Hambitzer giving life to the harpsichord solo - its first big break in concerto history. Then to No.6, with its unconventional scoring of strings and harpsichord but no violins, concluding with the hearty Concerto No.4, with its charming recorder duo team (Wolfgang Dey, Cordula Breuer) and truly inspired violin playing on the part of first violinist Evgeny Sviridov.

David Grimal (photo: Maxim Reider)
Also playing with no conductor, or might one say “self-conducted”, Les Dissonances (France), a small orchestral collective established in 2004 by violinist David Grimal, performs the major works of orchestral repertoire up to contemporary music. In “A Mozart Celebration” Grimal (soloist) and his players, many of them young, presented the last three of Mozart’s five violin concertos and, as in Mozart’s day, they were performed without a conductor, with Grimal glancing at players here and there but not engaging in actual conducting gestures. This approach makes more demands on the players, therefore, with the Dissonances members proving that they were indeed polished in the art of producing music with accuracy, coordination and clean entries, as they watched each other intently, sensing the music together. Their reading of Violin Concerto no.3 in G-major K.216 bristled with clarity, lyricism and some splendid wind-playing, with Grimal shaping phrases with much beauty. In the more extroverted and virtuosic Violin Concerto no.4 in D-major K. 218, its surprise package offering a stately gavotte played over a drone in the third movement, Grimal did not allow virtuosity to get in the way of the 19-year-old Mozart’s style of charm and elegance. As to Violin Concerto no.5 in A-major K. 219, Grimal and his players set before the audience the work’s originality, imaginative structure, drama and daring, some meaningful rubati adding to the graceful fragility of the second movement. Following this was Mozart’s unorthodox utterance within the gracious final Rondo movement – an aggressive, clanging, percussive reference to the faux-Turkish music popular at the time. With the violin concertos written without cadenzas, here was Grimal’s opportunity to express his own ideas of the cadenza improvisation. Even if some listeners were surprised or puzzled by some unpredictable turns, I think Mozart would have been happy with Grimal’s daring, his unconventional inventiveness and freedom.

In their second concert - “The Four Seasons” - David Grimal and Les Dissonances chose to perform Antonio Vivaldi’s “Le quattro staggione” in dialogue with Astor Piazzolla’s “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”, presenting each composer’s depiction of each season. The score of Vivaldi’s composition, written around 1723, one of the earliest examples of program music, was accompanied by poems (possibly written by Vivaldi himself) describing the feelings associated with each season:
‘Under the heavy season of a burning sun
Man languishes, his herd wilts, the pine is parched
The cuckoo finds its voice and, chiming in with it,
The turtle-dove, the goldfinch…’
Piazzolla’s original version of “Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas” (1965-1970), a set of four tango compositions describing the four seasons in Buenos Aires, was scored for violin (viola), piano, electric guitar, double bass and bandoneon (a large button accordion, of which the composer was a virtuoso player.) From 1966-1968, Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov arranged the pieces to be more similar in construction to those of Vivaldi – each given three sections – and with some quotes from the Vivaldi work. Not the first ensemble to engage in this meeting of “strange bedfellows” forming an alliance of works from different two continents (in recognition of which Desyatnikov threads elements of Vivaldi’s “Winter” into Piazzolla’s “Summer”!) and composed 250 years apart, Grimal and Les Dissonances took the bull by the horns and presented the audience with the rich and changing canvases, their alternation presenting an exciting challenge to the listener. Some found the changes jarring. Not I. This was fine festival fare and superbly performed. The artists’ playing of the much-loved Vivaldi violin concertos was direct, fresh and poignant, rich in timbral variety and in the inspiration generated by living nature and its secrets, the concertos flexed in accordance with the music’s innate elasticity. Grimal’s playing was poetic, moving and personal in expression. Piazzolla-Desyatnikov’s tango-inspired work, sharing with Vivaldi’s the depiction of all four seasons and the violin solo-string orchestra setting, weaves a vivid tapestry of European musical features, jazz and Argentinean tango, of abrupt shifts and the use of strings in a percussive manner. Swinging between the devil-may-care boldness and melancholy of Piazzolla’s writing, Grimal and his players brought out the vitality, earthiness, the wit and unabashed sentimentality of the Buenes Aires personality, giving themselves to the raw reality, fire, passion and sensuality of the music of Piazzolla’s native Argentina…and all this with no conductor!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Notes from the 2016 Eilat Chamber Music Festival - three chamber music concerts

Image result for trio wanderer

Trio Wanderer (photo:Maxim Reider)
The 11th Eilat Chamber Music Festival took place at the Dan Eilat Hotel from February 3rd to 7th   2016. Azure skies, the sparkling indigo blue waves of the Red Sea - home to flotillas of small yachts - and the relaxed feel of Israel’s southernmost city welcomed the many festival-goers who attended the concerts taking place in the Tarshish Hall and the larger Big Blue Hall of the Dan Hotel.

“From Russia with Love” opened the festivities, with Franz Schubert’s Sonata in A-minor D821 “Arpeggione”, performed by Israeli ‘cellist Hillel Zori and Russian pianist Ivan Rudin: Zori gave poignant expression to the singing qualities, harmonic interest and contrasts of Schubert’s sound world, with Rudin giving the stage to Zori all the way. However, in three of Liszt’s “Transcendental Études”, Rudin wielded the piano with the authority of the lion tamer: his playing bristled with fantasy, dynamic variety, warmth and spontaneity, at times meditative, at others, vehement.  Rudin was then joined by young violinist Marianna Vasileva (Russia-Israel) in Robert Schumann’s Sonata for violin and piano No.1 in A-minor. The two young virtuoso artists took on board the work’s quicksilver fluctuations and temperament with playing that was both intense and lyrical, well nuanced, finely coordinated and flexible. Together with Ivan Rudin, François Salque (France), no new face to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, performed Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata for ‘cello and piano in G-minor opus 65, a momentous work in that it was the last Chopin published and in which he himself performed; it also represents the composer’s struggle with the ‘cello-piano medium and probably with his separation from George Sand. The artists gave a vigorous, noble and carefully balanced reading of this autumnal work.

Concert no.4 was a recital by violinist Yossif Ivanov and pianist Alexander Gurning, two outstanding young Belgian artists, both members of the unconventional ensemble – Trilogy. Their transparent sound, delicately shaped phrases, incisive playing and off-beat sforzandi (3rd movement) of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata opus 12 no.1 in D-major made for a fine representation of the composer’s early- but already distinctive style. In Edvard Grieg’s Sonata no.3 in C-minor opus 45, the artists addressed the work’s darker colorings and intensity, its lyricism, subtlety and the work’s references to the composer’s national music. Then to Igor Stravinsky’s Divertimento for violin and piano (1928) based on his ballet music to “The Fairy’s Kiss” and constructed around some melodies of Tchaikovsky. Also tinted with folk music features, the work held the audience’s attention with its rich canvas of sweet melodies, rich harmonic variety, heavy ostinatos, its fantasy and unpredictable changes. The recital concluded with Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane”, in which both Ivanov and Gurning’s technical agility, fired by their own temperament and spontaneity, captured the composer’s interest in gypsy- and Hungarian culture.

For chamber music aficionados, Trio Wanderer’s performance was a reason to visit the 2016 festival. This was the second time the French trio has performed at the Eilat Chamber Music Festival. All three players were graduates from the Paris Conservatoire before studying at the Bloomington School of Music and the Juilliard School. Today, violinist Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian and ‘cellist Raphaël Pidoux have teaching posts at the Paris Conservatoire; Vincent Coq teaches at the Haute École de Musique, Lausanne. Joseph Haydn’s Trio in C-major Hob.XV:27 (1797) was a fine opener, with much fresh, positive and communicative playing and Classical elegance.  The first of a set of three trios, they were published as “Sonatas for the Pianoforte with Accompaniment of Violin and Violoncello”, showing where Haydn’s demands were (and they were well met by Vincent Coq), his range and writing for the keyboard pointing to the fact that it would have been played on a large English grand piano. In Franz Schubert’s Piano Trio no.2 in E-flat major, opus 100 D.929, the artists negotiated the appealing and majestic Allegro movement splendidly, with its Schubertian major-minor duality, to be followed by Pidoux’ sombre and meditative playing of the haunting ‘cello melody in the Andante movement. With tempos never achingly slow in any one movement, the artists stood back to present Schubert’s emotional world, its tensions and nostalgia relieved by good-natured lightness of texture as they attentively addressed each human gesture and mood. The concert ended with Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Trio in A-minor opus 50 (1882), a large-scale work on many levels, a work dedicated to the memory of Nicholas Rubenstein (brother of pianist and composer Anton Rubenstein) but also colored by Tchaikovsky’s own melancholic state of mind.  The artists gave expression to the composer’s intense emotionalism and melodiousness in the opening elegiac movement.  The simple folk-like theme (introduced by the piano) provided the subject for the eleven variations of the second movement, in which the trio presented each with its individual character – the Scherzo of Variation 3, the sweeping minor lines of Variation 4, the music box/drone effect of Variation 5, the elegant waltz of Variation 6, the contrapuntal interweaving of Variation 8, the Mazurka in Variation 10. Then, in the Finale, beginning with a jubilant variation, the artists take the listener back to the heavy-heartedness and mourning of the first movement, leaving the listener coming to grips with the intensely sad final layering of a tragic funeral march with the first movement theme, then fading and dying away. Trio Wanderer’s convincing and moving reading of the work left the audience in silence at its conclusion…laudation well earned by the superb performance of Trio Wanderer. For its encore, Trio Wanderer performed Ernest Bloch’s Nocturne no.2.