Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yuval Benozer conducts Ensemble Barrocade, the Kibbutz Artzi Choir and soloists at the 49th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival

The 49th Abu Gosh Vocal Music Festival took place from June 10th to 12th 2016. In perfect spring weather, people arrived from near and far to enjoy the concerts in the churches, the many outdoor musical events, picnicking, the craft stalls, the flower displays and the panoramic view over the region. This writer attended “Vivaldi -Gloria, Pergolesi – Magnificat” on June 11th in the Church of Our Lady of the Covenant, Kiryat Yearim. Ensemble Barrocade and the Kibbutz Artzi Choir were conducted by music director of the Kibbutz Artzi Choir Yuval Benozer (music director of the Kibbutz Artzi Choir). Soloists were soprano Reut Rebecca, countertenor Alon Harari, oboist Yigal Kaminka and trumpeter Yuval Shapiro.

The program opened with the choir’s warm, nicely blended performance of “Ave Verum Corpus” (Hail, true body), W.A.Mozart’s small gem of a hymn, its piety and meaning  encompassed in the harmonies and chromaticism of 46 bars.

The opening aria from J.S.Bach’s “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” BWV 51 (1730) with obbligato trumpet (Yuval Shapiro) was performed by soprano Reut Rebecca. The aria’s outpouring of joy and word-painting were expressed in her fine singing of coloratura passages, the Bach score demanding virtuosity not only on the part of the singer, but on that of the obbligato trumpet role (Yuval Shapiro on natural trumpet) and also of the first violin (Shlomit Sivan). With no score to hinder, Rebecca’s singing addressed the audience, her fresh-timbred voice negotiating the minefields of this piece with ease, agility and elegance of sound.

Yuval Shapiro performed Giuseppe Torelli’s Trumpet Concerto (c.1701). Like most trumpet concertos in the Baroque, the work is written in D-major, a scale sounding best on the natural trumpet. An accomplished string player, Torelli (1658-1709) began writing his first trumpet works around 1690. It seems his interest in writing for this instrument was the result of the splendid resonance of the San Petronio Basilica (Bologna) and of his acquaintance with virtuoso trumpeter Giovanni Pellegrino Brandi, who occasionally performed with the San Petronio Orchestra, of which Torelli was a member. Torelli became the most famous and prolific composer for trumpet in that period, combining musicality, sonority and virtuosity in these pieces. With this effervescent work indeed written specifically for the natural trumpet (a valveless instrument) Shapiro’s playing merged and soloed well with the other period instruments. His foray into the tricky and precarious field of the natural trumpet (a work in process) is showing nice results and proving to be an asset to the Baroque music scene.

From an artistic Venetian family, Venetian musician, poet, philosopher, artist, diplomat and mathematician Alessandro Marcello (1673-1747) (Benedetto’s older brother) first published his Concerto for oboe and strings in D-minor in 1716. Alessandro Marcello epitomized the 18th century Italian “nobile dilettante”. His most famous work, and one of the most beautiful works of the Venetian School, the oboe concerto, also gained popularity when J.S.Bach transcribed it for harpsichord.  From the outset, Yigal Kaminka‘s performance on Baroque oboe had the audience with him all the way, his hearty, energizing and ornamented playing of the opening movement answered by first violin (Sivan). In the Adagio, with its resplendent, upward-spiralling oboe cantilena, Kaminka wove the movement’s melody with singing expressiveness and poignancy, to be followed by his buoyant, upbeat and quick-witted playing of the final movement, all much to the joy of the attending festival-goers.

As to Pergolesi referred to in the concert title, there was no work of his; we heard Neapolitan composer and famous teacher Francesco Durante’s (1684-1755) Magnificat in B-flat major, written in the 1640s. Some controversy surrounds the work. In the early 20th century the work had been attributed to Durante’s gifted pupil G.B.Pergolesi, this theory now considered incorrect. Yuval Benozer drew together the threads of the work, bringing out voice-leading in the choir and giving attention to diction, highlighting the work’s exciting and forceful choral comments and outbursts. Harari and Rebecca gave delicacy and shape to the duets, descriptive in the (tenor-bass) “Suscepit Israel”. The choir highlighted the urgency of call and response characterized in “Sicut locutus est”, celebrating the work’s last section satisfyingly with vibrant intertwining of the texts.

In a concert abounding in much festive festival fare, what could be more suitable or uplifting than Antonio Vivaldi’s much loved Gloria in D-major, a work also calling for the forces on hand on the stage! Thought to have been composed around 1715, what happened was that for two centuries after Vivaldi’s death, the Gloria remained undiscovered until the late 1920s, when the manuscript was found in a pile of forgotten Vivaldi manuscripts.  The Kibbutz Artzi Choir shaped the choruses with melodic detail, with expression and dynamic variety, their intonation exemplary for an amateur choir. In “Laudamus te”, Rebecca and Harari’s teamwork was splendid as they played out the section’s dissonances. In “Domine Deus, Rex caelestis”, Rebecca’s singing competently engaged not only in the text but also with specific players. Harari’s emotional statements in the gentle “Domine Deus, Agnus Dei”, answered by the choir, were joined by lyrical viol playing (Amit Tiefenbrunn).

The Kibbutz Artzi Choir was established in 1958, earning a reputation of excellence, recording and touring in Europe and the USA. Yuval Benozer has been the choir’s musical director and conductor since 1990. Barrocade – the Israeli Baroque Collective – was founded in 2007 by a group of young musicians, led by viola da gamba player Amit Tiefenbrunn. Shlomit Sivan is the ensemble’s first violinist.


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