Friday, December 28, 2018

Ensemble Wiener Collage (Austria) performs modern and very contemporary Christmas and Hanukkah music at the Willy Brandt Center (Jerusalem)

Photo: Sarah George

Octaves of Light, a concert for the Hanukkah and Christmas festivals, was a unique event performed by Ensemble Wiener Collage (Austria) at the Willy Brandt Center, Jerusalem on December 17th 2018. Established in 2005, Ensemble Wiener Collage offers an alternative to classical Christmas music concerts. With their various programs produced by a several different conductors, the group’s concerts weave together a unique combination of lyrics, sound, visuals, performance and music. An ensemble encouraging young, ambitious artists to hone their skills, it has premiered 57 works over the last couple of years; some of these new works were heard at the Jerusalem concert. At the event, seven instrumentalists, joined by mezzo-soprano Patricia Nolz, were conducted by René Staar; scenic direction and spoken texts were in the hands of Tania Golden, with Micaela Hurdes-Galli as video editor. Ensemble Wiener Collage’s Hanukkah-Christmas program presented the journey taken by light from darkness to joy. Highlighting the many similarities between Christmas and Hanukkah, the event, pondering darkness, doubt, wonder and enlightenment, also included an exploration of various aspects of Jewish history. The project was supported by the Cultural Forum of the Austrian Embassy (Director Maria Gierlinger-Landa was present). Petra Klose, Social Art project coordinator of the Willy Brandt Center, welcomed guests, stressing the suitability of this concert to the Willy Brandt Centre, a space hosting encounters of people from Israel, Palestine, Europe and the entire world, people encouraging cross-cultural exchange beyond borders. 


The program was an assemblage of instrumental- and vocal pieces interspersed with readings in German on such subjects as the history of Hanukkah, thoughts on prayer and the mysterious figure of God. Several works took the listener into the world of Klezmer music and Yiddish song coming from the traditional Jewish shtetl (town): Leon Pollak, violinist and provider of vocals and narration in Ensemble Klesmer Wien, the group he founded and leads, has incorporated the exhilarating, delicate or melancholy elements of Klezmer melodies into his arrangements; these were sensitively and authentically performed by violinist Robert Nzekwu. Young mezzo-soprano Patricia Nolz gave an emotional performance of “Two Songs based on “Halbtener”, settings by Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sheriff (b.1954), Nolz’ anchored, well-rounded voice and intense approach bringing out both the melancholic-and joyful messages of this music, with splendid playing on accordion (Alfred Melichar) and clarinet (Theresa Sinkhauser) providing strong associations of the genre. Based in Vienna, singer, bassist and composer Benjamin Fox-Rosen (b.1984, USA). conducts the Vienna Stadttempel Choir, his interests lying in the meeting of folk traditions with the avant-garde. Composed in 2018, “Nitl iz a beyzer layd” (Christmas is a wicked burden) is a daring, provocative song. Nolz’ singing of the Yiddish/English text, its melodic line bristling with unconventional leaps, worked well with Fox-Rosen’s up-front, colourful and feisty instrumental score. Works composed in 2018 by members of Ensemble Wiener Collage included the busy, atonal “Desire for Light - Schamasch” (2018) by Mexican-born Jaime Wolfson (b.1974) and Alexander Stankovski’s (b.1968) thought-provoking Linien V (Chanukka) (2018). Another work from 2018 was “Aufruf zur höchsten Schau“ by versatile opera/film/theatre composer Alexander Kukelka (b.1963), a powerful, reflective and intense piece given a gripping reading by singer and players.


Chamber Music No.12 (2011-2012) by Austrian composer Dietmar Hellmich (b.1976), one of Ensemble Wiener Collage’s recent directors, is an atonal instrumental piece constructed from many small gestures; its fresh, inspired course was performed by the instrumentalists with much articulacy, attention to the detail and the expressivity inherent in each motif.


Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) was brought up in the Jewish faith but in 1898 converted to Protestantism and was baptised in the Viennese Dorothee Parish. With his re-conversion to Judaism in Paris in 1933 he made both a religious and national-political statement. Works by Schoenberg figured largely in the program. His “Christmas Music” (1921), a serene work for two violins, ‘cello, harmonium, and piano, is a fantasia on two well-known Christmas carols - “Est is Eine Ros’ Entsprungen” and “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht”. Although Schoenberg made public his twelve-tone system in 1921, this work refers back to the composer's compositional mastery of the tonal realm. The Wiener Collage players gave it a richly timbred, festive performance, with the piano adding jubilant Christmas-season  brightness. Another Christmas work was that of American pianist and composer Karl Kohn (b.1926, Austria). In his chamber piece “Ambiance de Noël” (2009), we heard familiar Christmas melodies emerging from atonal screens of sound made up of very individual roles, the songs then to disappear and reappear in fragmented forms. A fascinating work!


Thought-provoking and different, “Octaves of Light” was a fine vehicle for Ensemble Wiener Collage’s impressive instrumentalists (and some of its house composers). Versatile and accomplished young Austrian mezzo-soprano Patricia Nolz (b.1995) gave profound meaning to the sung texts. Maestro René Staar, himself a composer, drew all the program’s threads together with profound musicality and dedication.



Monday, December 24, 2018

The Jerusalem Opera and the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra perform W.A.Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" at the Jerusalem Theatre

Photo: Efrat Mazor
The Jerusalem Opera’s latest production was W.A.Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte”. Established in 2011 by producer Manon Weizman and musical director and conductor Omer Arieli, the Jerusalem Opera aims to present opera productions of the highest quality in Jerusalem and to provide a platform for the promotion of Jerusalem and Israeli artists, new immigrants and young artists. So far, it has staged seven full-scale operas and a number of smaller productions. The present production was dedicated to the memory of singer Gilad Rosenberg. This writer attended the performance at the Jerusalem Theater on December 16th 2018.


“Così fan tutte” ossia “La scuola degli amanti” (All Women Do It, or The School for Lovers) K.588, Mozart’s two-act Italian-language opera buffa, was first performed on January 26th 1790 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria. The libretto, written by Lorenzo Da Ponte (who also wrote libretti to  “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Don Giovanni”) was to be their final collaboration. Prompted by a cynical old philosopher Don Alfonso (Denis Sedov), two young men - Ferrando (Oshri Segev) and Guglielmo (Gabriele Ribis) - decide to test the loyalty of their lovers, sisters Dorabella (Aleksandra Kovalevich) and Fiordiligi (Elinor Sohn). As the unusual experiment gets under way, nothing unfolds quite as expected, as a series of outrageous events follows, with all assumptions and good intentions challenged by their unpredictable complexities. The opera’s original message offered a very dim view of women’s morals and even intelligence – extreme even by 18th-century standards - but its subject matter seems not to have offended Viennese sensibilities of the time. However, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, “Così fan tutte” was considered risqué, vulgar, and even immoral. After World War II, it regained its place in the standard operatic repertoire and is now frequently performed. In the Jerusalem Opera’s production, Ferrando and Guglielmo, when returning as Albanians, appear in whimsical animal costumes, possibly a touch to balance out the opera’s sexist approach...


The Jerusalem Opera’s “Cosi fan tutte” (stage director: Ari Teperberg) was an amiable, entertaining production, sparkling with energy, originality and visually very pleasing. With the focus on the singers and plot, we were saved from flashing, gaudy backdrops and video clips (so common in many of today’s opera productions) in favour of an uncluttered stage. There was a real aesthetic sense to the props - clothes racks, shop dummies, mirrors, etc., all wheeled in and out gracefully by dancer/actors Adam Shpira and Chihiro Tazuro. Costuming (Shira Wise) was contemporary and tasteful. But it was the splendid line-up of singers, all carrying about the same weight in vocal demands, that gave credence to Mozart and Da Ponte’s so-called “scientific investigation” of love. As the glamorous Dorabella, Russian mezzo-soprano Aleksandra Kovalevich showed herself at ease in every conceivable register. She was well partnered by agile Israeli coloratura soprano Elinor Sohn in a fine portrayal of Fiordiligi, arguably Mozart’s most complicated heroine and the more modest and longer-loyal of the two sisters. The sincerity of the sisters’ shared feelings was expressed in arching homophonic vocal lines, moving in parallel throughout. Playing Guglielmo, baritone Gabriele Ribis (Italy), no new face to the Jerusalem Opera (also as stage director) sang with honeyed fullness of tone, clearly comfortable in comic opera roles. Going from strength to strength, Israeli tenor Oshri Segev sang with natural, smooth clarity of sound without force, giving delicious edge to his mock-heroic love music. As Don Alfonso, bass Denis Sedov, the young men’s shady, cynical, underworld-type older friend, was slick and authoritative, his warm, substantial voice giving buoyancy to Mozart’s long melodic lines. As to soprano Mima Milo, she brought to the farcical role of the contriving maid Despina all her customary tonal finish and finely hued texture, while entertaining the audience with her natural use of the stage and waggish humour.


Also rewarding were the many wonderfully fluid, continuous duets, trios, quartets, even sextets, Mozart’s way of showing interaction between people. Under Omer Arieli’s baton, the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra gave the score elegance and stamina, bringing both lift and precision to the emotional scope of Mozart’s dramatic architecture. The chorus, too, gave a fine complement on and off-stage, appearing in the last act all dressed in chic black as guests at the festive double wedding.


The Jerusalem Opera’s production highlighted Mozart's ability to treat the most profound subjects with the lightest touch, as he delves into the hearts of his figures, using his sublime music to tell us about the confusing complexity of their emotional state. At the same time, Mozart is no moralist; he invites us to ride the wave of good humour in his wonderfully light, theatrical and sophisticated way. Kudos to the Jerusalem Opera for a superb production.

Maestro Omer Arieli (photo: Elad Zagman)

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Prof. Hartmut Rohmeyer performs Bach organ works at the Redeemer Church, Jerusalem, in memory of Elisabeth Roloff

Elisabeth Roloff (Courtesy Redeemer Church, Jerusalem)

On December 15th 2018, Prof. Hartmut Rohmeyer, musical director of the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City, gave an all-Bach organ recital in memory of Elisabeth Roloff, who was the Redeemer Church’s musical director and organist from 1982 to 2008. The program consisted of some parts of “The Art of Fugue” as well as chorale preludes for Advent and Christmas.


For most of us, J.S.Bach’s “Die Kunst der Fuge” (The Art of Fugue) BWV 1080, one of the most enigmatic works of western music, seems to defy words. Curiously, Lutheran theologian, organist and philosopher Albert Schweitzer referred to it as “purely theoretical” and then there was English musicologist, critic and composer Wilfrid Mellers’ reference to it as “Bach playing alone to God and himself in an empty church”. An incomplete musical work of unspecified instrumentation, written in the last decade of Bach’s life, it represents the high point of Bach's experimentation with monothematic fugal writing. Its twenty sections (counting the canons and the inversus performances of the mirror fugues) of intense counterpoint, all in the key of D minor, using some variation of a single principal subject and generally in order of increasing complexity, have been recorded by orchestra, string quartets, viols, saxophones and recorders, organists, harpsichordists and pianists. One of its unique qualities is that it works in all media.


At the Redeemer Church, Prof. Rohmeyer, organist and music director of the church as of March 2018, eased the listener into Bach’s compositional process via the first four sections of The Art of Fugue with his unmannered and articulate playing of Contrapunctus I, of Contrapunctus II, its dotted character set into a rich, reedy canvas, then followed by the subject in inversion in the chromatic soundscape of Contrapunctus III, with Contrapunctus IV definitely embracing in majestic, brassy and forthright playing.


Then to three Advent chorale preludes from Bach’s Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes, a late collection representing the summit of Bach's sacred music for solo organ. Added to the collection by Bach himself between 1739 and 1742, the early versions of almost all the chorale preludes probably date back to 1710–1714, when Bach was court organist and director of music at the court of Wilhelm Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, a devout Lutheran and music lover. All three that Rohmeyer played are based on “Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland” (Come now, Saviour of the heathen), BWV 659, its chorale melody beautifully shaped in bell-like tones with a touch of tremolo over more subdued secondary voices and a walking bass, BWV 660, with its unconventionally dark, woodwind-associated registration supporting the cantus firmus in the soprano, to be contrasted by the larger-scale BWV 661, its counterpoint richly orchestrated. Rohmeyer’s reading of BWV 662 “Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr” (Alone to God on high be honour), a German version of the Christmas hymn "Gloria in excelsis Deo", gave reverent expression to the piece’s serenity, its highly ornate soprano chorale melody soaring above a secure pedal line.


And to two of the final sections: The four-voiced Contrapunctus XI, a gigantic triple fugue, is one of the Art of Fugue’s big moments, its complex weave tightly linked with Contrapunctus VIII. With all its grandeur, Rohmeyer’s playing was nevertheless contemplative, making maximal use of small motifs and rests.  The Art of Fugue reaches its apex with Contrapunctus XIV, the incomplete fugue with Bach’s signature B-A-C-H theme. Despite his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach writing “At the point where the composer introduces the name BACH in the countersubject to this fugue, the composer dies”.it is clouded by mystery. Bach scholar Christoph Wolff believes that Bach did in fact complete the final fugue and several musicians have written their own completion to it. Prof. Rohmeyer’s performance of Contrapunctus XIV was noble and penetrating as he issued in each new subject with timbral clarity, the sudden ceasing of sound always coming as a shock, a symbol of life cut short.


When “The Art of Fugue” was published, it included the chorale prelude “Vor deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit” (Before Thy Throne I Stand with This), a new text to a chorale prelude written some years before. Playing this composition of unsurpassed serenity, Prof. Hartmut Rohmeyer presented its message of final, major-tinted resignation and comfort in gently veiled tonings.  The church’s Karl Schuke organ is especially suitable to performance of J.S.Bach’s music. The evening’s program, performed with outstanding clarity, eloquence, humility and a profound understanding of J.S.Bach’s music, was a meaningful tribute to Elisabeth Roloff, her musicianship and dedication to the Redeemer Church. As the church organ and its repertoire had formed the centrepiece of Bach’s creative evolution and existence, so it was with Elisabeth Roloff.

Prof. Hartmut Rohmeyer (courtesy Israel Organ Festival)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

From Mozart to Ravel - Gideon (Gidi) Meir in a piano recital at the Teiva Hall in Jaffa, Israel

Photo:students of the Meishar Art School
Israeli harpsichordist, organist and pianist Gidi Meir gave a solo piano recital on December 10th 2018 in the intimate Teiva hall in Jaffa, Israel. Welcoming the audience, the artist spoke of programming as a challenging art, one fascinating in the connections it brings to light between the various works selected for the concert. This program was no exception. Meir likened the process to compiling a fine menu, but, unlike the perfect dining experience, the composers and works remain in close contact with the artist for the duration of the months of concert preparation.


The concert opened with “Cordoba” the fourth piece of “Cantos de España” (Songs of Spain), Op.232 (1896) by Spanish pianist, composer and conductor Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909). Speaking about Albéniz, Meir made clear that he was not a composer of guitar music (several of his works have been transcribed for guitar) and that his oeuvre is much more comprehensive than the Albéniz’ “hits” familiar to so many people. A self-educated man, he was a child prodigy and a virtuoso pianist, his writing for piano influencing such composers as Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. Of great importance is that Albéniz had significantly raised the profile of Spanish music abroad and encouraged musicians in his own country. Meir’s reading of the piece, engaging much use of the sustaining pedal, presented its richly vibrant tableau of modality and impressionistic harmonic devices, bell effects, sentimentality and melodiousness in playing that was personal, contemplative and reminiscent of bygone days.


It seems that Claude Debussy (1862-1918) began composing the “Suite Bergamasque” in 1890, while still a student, revising and publishing it in 1905; it is unknown how much of the work was completed in 1890 and/or in 1905. Profuse in impressionistic content, its third and most famous movement was inspired by Paul Verlaine’s poem “Clair de lune”. (Meir added that the other three movements are also influenced by its musical ideas.) Debussy went on to make two more settings of the poem for voice and piano accompaniment. It is not known whether the young Debussy had known Verlaine, one of the leaders of the Symbolist movement and a key figure in Paris’s vibrantly decadent fin-de-siècle cultural scene. Gidi Meir’s deep enquiry into the suite drew the listener’s attention to the work’s exotic harmonies, rich melodiousness and its moods, from the freshness and archaic grandeur of the Prelude, to the somewhat modal Minuet and the final piece (Passepied), its spirited, complex, contrasted sound created by staccato in the left hand, with flowing themes in the right hand, yet not devoid of an underlying sense of yearning. But it is the third piece (Clair de Lune) with its mysterious uniqueness and evocative moonlit scene that creates one of Debussy’s greatest- and most sensuous tone poems. Verlaine's poem was printed on the program; the artist read a Hebrew translation of it for those unfamiliar with French.
Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.
Allowing time for the magical vignette to unfold, Gidi Meir’s playing of it was articulate, its flow of rolling notes, luxuriant harmonies and intriguing dynamic phrases interwoven with touching, personal expression. It was Debussy himself who claimed that “the beauty of a work of art is something that will always remain mysterious.”


Prior to his playing of W.A.Mozart’s Sonata in F-major KV 332, Meir reminded the audience of the composer’s deep love of opera from a young age and its influence on almost all he wrote as well as on such composers as Debussy and Ravel. He added that, in his writing, Mozart’s humorous moments are serious and vice versa and that if this sonata were an opera, the protagonist would surely have been a woman! Aware that Mozart would have performed the sonata on a fortepiano, Meir’s decision was nevertheless to make maximum use of the Steinway grand at his disposal but to also engage in much ornamentation, as would any fortepianist of Mozart’s day. (Interestingly, ornamentation was added to Adagio in the Artaria printed edition, which was overseen by Mozart himself.) Meir’s rendition of the work was an experiential journey. The opening Allegro juxtaposed the bold first subject with the decidedly feminine second subject playing out their vocalistic roles within the pianist’s personal view of the narrative. Moving directly into the Adagio, Meir’s poignant playing of it, engaging in spreads and ample use of the sustaining pedal, showed the listener through its process, colouring minor sections in darker hues. As to the final Allegro, its sections of brilliant passagework contrasting with a more cantabile style, more “characters” took to the stage, some more songful, some more reticent, others displaying a sense of urgency. Meir’s playing, offering embellishments on the repeats, managed to convey Mozart’s own modesty, then to sign out with modest understatement.


Gidi Meir referred to Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infante défunte” as involving two princesses.  One was the Princesse de Polignac, a painter of Socialist, feminist leanings, who commissioned the work and at whose stately Paris mansion Ravel probably performed the work on several occasions. The second was the Habsburg Infanta Margarita Teresa (1651-1673), a Spanish Renaissance princess who appears in a portrait series of Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez. Ravel stated that the piece’s only aim was “the pleasure of alliteration”, explaining that, considering he had no programmatic image in mind, it was.”not a funeral lament for a dead child, but rather an evocation of the pavane that might have been danced by such a little princess as painted by Velázquez”. Although composed in 1899, when the composer was still a student at the Conservatoire de Paris, Gidi Meir views the work as as mature as it is naive, integrating early music, Blues and the influence of gamelan music. Meir’s performance, underlining its haunting subtlety and expressive, somewhat Spanish melodiousness, was substantial and warmly nostalgic (rather than insipid and grief-ridden, as too often heard), a celebration of its harmonic interest, with its ceremonial Pavane dance form referring to early court music.


For his encore, Gidi Meir played "Serenade for a Doll" from Debussy's "Children's Corner Suite", its delicate melody played in parallel fourths, charm and naivety sending the audience home with another taste of the fragility and exotic harmonies of Impressionistic music.


Gidi Meir’s recital was a profoundly personal revisiting of the piano, his first instrument. Having performed widely as a harpsichordist, his rich background in early music afforded him understanding of connections between all the works on the program and their own references to music of earlier styles. He is an musician of conviction, an artist who communicates with his audiences as naturally in words as he does with sounds.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

Pianist Amir Katz performs Chopin's Op.10 and Opus 25 Etudes to a packed house at the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies

Photo: Stéphane de Bourgies
On December 9th 2018, Israeli pianist Amir Katz performed Frédéric Chopin’s Op.25 and Op.10 Études at a concert of the Sunday Evening Classics series of the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies (Mormon University).

Chopin wrote the two collections over some eight years. Three more Études (not performed at the recital) followed in 1839. Written between the ages of 19 and 23, Chopin published his first études - Op. 10 - in 1833, by which time he had developed a considerable reputation in his native Poland and in the salons of Paris. He dedicated them “to my friend, Franz Liszt”. Op.25, published in 1837, was dedicated to Countess Marie d’Agoult (who happened to be Liszt’s mistress).  Unlike the studies that have been the drudgery of many a young piano student, Chopin’s études take for granted the pianist’s absolute mastery of the instrument; beyond their huge technical demands, they form a kaleidoscope of dazzling tone poems - works concise in length but of immense effect

A while ago, I spent time listening to Amir Katz’ CD of Chopin’s Etudes, a recording made in April 2015 in Berlin for the ORFEO label. The Jerusalem recital offered another opportunity to ponder these pieces and Katz’ interpretation of them. The pianist chose to open with the Op. 25 Etudes, these representing a crucial milestone in the composer’s development as a virtuoso pianist and composer. The artist reminded the listener of Chopin’s innovative use of chromatics, colour and texture and of the sheer opulence of the pieces. There is a lot happening and a lot to take in, as the pianist takes the listener on a whirlwind trip of Chopin’s seemingly unbounded world of fantasy -  to mention a few of the pieces: the opening study, its magical melody issuing each group of feather-light sextuplets, or the agitated but charming frivolity of No.4, as its melody rides the backbeat, and No.5, with its dissonant grace notes teasing the melody of the two outer sections, its languishing left hand melody in the middle section perhaps a message from Chopin begging the listener’s pardon him for his indulgent but ever-entertaining caper. Then there is the drama and intensity of No.10, with its extravagant, rapid octaves (to be played legato!!) and punctuated by a gentle, shell-shocked middle section (or is it the listener who is shell-shocked?). As to the suspenseful No.11, considered one of Chopin’s most difficult études; how fortunate and strategic it was that Chopin added the first few bars just before publication (on the advice of his friend Charles A. Hoffmann) before the pianist launches into “Winter Wind”, more the intensity of a tsunami; Katz does not allow its profusion of notes to blur the melodies existing in it. And then there are those breathtaking, magical moments - the gossamery featherweight, fast-flying No.2, over in the blink of an eye, and Katz’ playing of the C-sharp minor No.7, its reticent introduction issuing in a melody shaped and timed so sensitively by him and of indescribable and caressing beauty

To the Op.10 Études, opening with Katz’ ebullient and (literally) open-handed playing of the No.1 in C-major, cascading fearlessly up and down the keyboard, its broad arpeggiated theme sometimes spanning three or four octaves in a single bar, followed by his delicate, smooth treatment of No.2, the gliding right hand filigree chromatics belying the piece’s stringent technical demands. And how direct, wistful and personal his playing was of No.3 was, with its mix of melancholy and affection. As to No.5, Katz, staying well clear of the excessive speed and rough accents so prevalent in performances of this miniature, presents its floating magic and melodiousness in delicately crafted gestures, his playing no less weightless in the magical No.11, the étude’s enharmonic shifts weaving its dainty dreamworld. With the 12th Étude, all delicacy is swept away, to be replaced by the stark reality of the November Uprising (1831); Chopin, reacting to the Russian bombardment of Warsaw, exclaimed: "All this has caused me much pain. Who could have foreseen it?"  Katz’ presentation of the Revolutionary Étude conveyed the composer’s anger and despairing message in a dazzling, intense performance.


With the Op.10 dedicated "à son ami Franz Liszt", Amir Katz performed Franz Liszt’s dreamy (Chopin-tinted) “Consolation”. The pianist expressed his delight at playing on the hall’s fine Steinway Model D concert grand. It was his first appearance at the Mormon University.



Friday, December 14, 2018

"The Fall of the Angels" - the PHOENIX Ensemble celebrates 20 years of performance with guests in a concert of 17th century Italian music at Notre Dame, Jerusalem

Photo: Shlomit Mayer

“The Fall of the Angels”, a concert of 17th century Italian instrumental- and choral music was an auspicious event in Israel, bringing together the PHOENIX Ensemble (director: Myrna Herzog), members of the Ludovice Ensemble (Lisbon, Portugal) and students of the Vocal Department of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv (Head of Dept: Prof. Sharon Rostorf-Zamir). Myrna Herzog initiated and directed the project, also conducting the concert. This writer attended the concert at “Our Lady of Peace”, the chapel of the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute of Jerusalem on December 5th 2018. The project received support from the Portuguese Embassy, Tel Aviv and the Italian Institute, Haifa..


The program opened with a Sinfonia à 6 by Giovanni Battista Vitali (1632-1692), a church musician and violone player, whose various methods of experimentation and innovation were instrumental in bringing about the emergence of the Baroque ensemble. Issued in by the drum (Rui Silva) the ensemble gave the majestic work, in all its (typically Italian Baroque) small sections of contrasting material, a brisk, suave performance, the winds engaging in ornamentation on repeats. It seems that Vitali was a student of another northern Italian composer - Maurizio Cazzati (1616-1709) - of whom we heard the Ciaconna from his “Varii e Diversi Capricci per camera e per chiesa” (Bologna, 1669) A figure almost unknown today, he is, nevertheless, one who ought to command our attention as one of the most prolific and successful composers of his day whose copious oeuvre covered every genre. In great demand as a musical director, Cazzati held the prestigious position of maestro di cappella at the Basilica of San Petronio (Bologna). At the Jerusalem concert, the ensemble’s vibrant mix of timbres, the conversational duetting of violins - Yaakov Rubinstein, Noam Gal -  (Cazzati established the Bologna school of violin music as the greatest of Modena, Venice and Bologna) and the players’ use of improvisation gave the ensemble’s reading of  the ostinato piece unstilted freshness and a living sense of connection between music written 350 years ago and what today’s players have to say.


In addition to holding numerous posts as organist, Pietro Andrea Ziani (c.1616-1684) composed various works throughout his lifetime, including operas, oratorios, masses, psalms, overtures, organ pieces, and several three- to six-part instrumental sonatas. Well connected, he was one of the first Venetians of his century to bring local music to Vienna, Dresden and Naples. And talking of connections, Ziani succeeded Cazzati as maestro di cappella at Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, in 1657. The ensemble’s performance of Ziani’s Sonata Op.VII No.17 gave eloquent expression to the composer’s graceful melodic lines, his characteristic tremolo-style orchestration, echo effects and his penchant for chromatics. Guiding the listener through the work’s musical processes, the players (strings, organ) created a soundscape that was richly communicative, but also decidedly spiritual in mood. (Ziani was a priest, becoming a deacon in 1640).


All of what is known about Bernardo Storace (1637-1707) is printed on the title-page of his only collection of music, the “Selva di varie compositioni d’intavolatura per cimbalo ed organo”, published in Venice in 1664. Nobody has solved the mystery of the fact that, living in Sicily he published his music in Venice and that his keyboard works share more with North Italian keyboard writing than with the southern compositional style of Rome or Naples. Herzog transcribed Storace’s keyboard piece “Ballo della Battaglia” for the ensemble at hand, creating a spirited score, the performance profiting from the play of diverse timbres, as in the cheerful banter between violins and cornetto with recorder (Alma Mayer, Inbal Solomon). The Italians loved the feisty, descriptive character of the “battaglia”; this, however, was a hearty battle, bowing out with the wink of an eye…


An early representative of the Neapolitan operatic school, composer, organist and tenor Cristofaro Caresana (c.1640-1709) studied under Pietro Andrea Ziani in Venice before moving to Naples in his late teens, where he joined the theatre company of Febi Armonici which produced early examples of melodrama. Indeed, Caresana’s works have all the passion, the seamless fusion of sacred and profane and the glitter of musical colour characteristic of the Neapolitan Baroque. “La Vittoria del Infante” (Victory of the Child) is a quasi-theatrical Nativity cantata, stacked with comedy, drama and exuberant energy. Spanish associations in text and music - suggestions of bullfighting and the use of castanets - are anti-Spanish satire (condemning the oppressive rule of Naples by the Spanish). Presenting the work’s urgency, moments of battaglia and triumph wrought in strong Neapolitan sentiments, Herzog, her ensemble and the singers also displayed its genuine beauty. Their close collaboration gave voice to the cantata’s interplay of solos, vocal ensembles and highly coloured instrumental writing. Baritone Hagai Berenson (Lucifero) was imposing and communicative; showing involvement and awareness of the work’s text and changes of mood, young countertenor Eliran Kadussi dealt laudably with the demanding role of San Michele.


When an angel challenges God this can only lead to turmoil in the heavens - whirlwinds, flashing lightning, palpable darkness and terribly bitter moans, roars, crying and shaking.and a sorry fate. This is the subject of Francesco Rossi’s oratorio “La Caduta dell’Angeli”, performed here for the first time in Israel, and from which the program took its title. Dr. Myrna Herzog outlined the story thus: “Based on the apocryphal book of Enoch, LA CADUTA DELL' ANGELI depicts the rebellion of angels led by Lucifer (then an angel of light = luce), their defeat by Archangel Michael and his army of good angels, and their fall into the abyss.” It was this story of arrogance, rebellion, hard-headedness, evil and justice that inspired librettist Salvatore Scaglione and composer, organist and maestro di cappella Francesco Rossi (b.1625) to produce a work that could only be deemed as “theatrical”! (Born in Bari, Rossi studied in Naples, moving to Venice in 1686, where he wrote operas and sacred music.) Following the course of the text, one cannot help being amazed by its universality, its lively, natural dialogue and emotions, all accessible long after being penned. Both soprano soloists - Shira Miriam Cohen, as Lucifero (angel of light) and Sharon Tadmor, in the role of San Michele - their voices bright and stable, performed with impressive confidence and conviction, addressing the audience and also blending well in duet sections. No less competent was tenor Daniel Portnoy (God) offering expressive and empathic singing and some tasteful ornamenting. After his fall from grace, Lucifer is then portrayed by a bass-baritone, an interesting effect of characterization; in this role, Yoav Ayalon reflected on the fate of a fallen angel expelled from Heaven in dark, dejected tonings:
“What terrible abysses
Fate has prepared here,
Death is visible in them.”
The work concluded with resplendent choral singing, as the final chorus brought us all back to earth with a lesson to be learned by the story:
“Whoever imitates Lucifer is awaited by Hell”.


Three guest instrumentalists joining the PHOENIX Ensemble - on violone, Brazilian-born Gio Sthel, today living in Stuttgart and conductor of the LALA HÖHÖ early music Ensemble, and the two members of the Ludovice Ensemble - its musical director Miguel Jalôto (organ continuo) and percussionist Rui Silva - added their superlative musicianship to the project. Altogether, the evening’s instrumental playing was stirring and inspiring. As to the young student vocalists, their diligent work under Myrna Herzog’s guidance (this early music style being a totally new musical experience for them) resulted in singing that was unencumbered by heavy vibrato without sounding forced, showing the primacy of the words; within a short period of time they had, in fact, achieved a vocal timbre authentic in style and tuning for 17th century Italian music.


The festive event was a special project marking twenty years of Ensemble PHOENIX’ authentic musical performance in Israel.  Founded and directed by Myrna Herzog, the ensemble’s performance of European and Latin American music, J.S.Bach, viol consort music, music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and even early Romantic periods, opera, Jewish- and Christian music, ethnic- and world music and solo recitals, have changed the Israeli music scene, encouraging Israeli musicians to embrace music of all periods and in the appropriate authentic manner. Herzog has introduced Israeli audiences to a host of renowned overseas artists and performed much previously unknown repertoire. Above all, PHOENIX is known for its performances of an uncompromising, high level. Since immigrating to Israel from Brazil, viol-player, ‘cellist and researcher Dr. Myrna Herzog has also opened listeners’ ears to the important role of the viol in early music and, in the field of music education, created a new generation of local viol players.


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Pianist Ariel Halevy discusses and performs Ballades of Brahms and Chopin at the Eden-Tamir Music Center (Jerusalem)

Photo courtesy A. Halevy
The Romantic Piano - Ballades, the third of the 2018-2019 “Musiversity” concert-lecture series (coordinator: Dr. Dror Semmel) at the Eden-Tamir Music Center took place on December 3rd 2018. Pianist and educationalist Ariel Halevy discussed and performed Ballades of Brahms and Chopin.  


Halevy opened by mentioning that the ballad was actually an early literary form, spoken or sung and, on occasions, even accompanied by dance. Johannes Brahms’ Ballades Op.10 (1854), an early collection (he wrote them when was 21 years old), described by him understatedly as “not too difficult to play and even less difficult to understand”, are the composer’s only contribution to the genre. Halevy mentioned that the Romantics showed much interest in literature of the Middle Ages. This was reflected in the first of Brahms’ Ballades, the only program work of the four; its inspiration is “Edward” a Scottish poem that tells a grisly tale of deception and murder in a medieval royal family. Brahms found the folk ballad in Johann Gottfried Herder’s anthology “Stimmen der Volker.” Originally written in Scots, it was later translated into German and English:
“Why does your brand so drop with blood, Edward, Edward?
Why does your brand so drop with blood, And why so sad go ye, O?
O I have killed my hawk so good, Mother, mother;
O I have Killed my hawk so good, And I have no more but he, O…”
It transpires that Edward, on the advice of his mother, has murdered his father. Halevy takes the listener into the work with gentle introspection, we hear the blood evoked drop by drop in the left hand and the work builds up dramatically. Halevy’s melodic lines and phrasing remain articulate, despite the pianist’s generous use of the sustaining pedal.


The remaining three Brahms Ballades speak of no extra-musical program, as far as the listener is concerned. In the second, an Andante in D-major, its pensive, lyrical opening expounding the composer’s motto in the notes f-a-f “Frei aber froh” (free but happy); Halevy guides the listener through Brahms’ processes into the dramatic, highly textured middle section and back to the original lyricism with the utmost of poignancy. Then to the third, the B-minor Intermezzo, its opening enigmatic and distinctive in jagged accented notes, Halevy then leading on to delicate moments, bell effects and weightless cascading figures, his precise, clean finger-work lending lucidity to each. In the B-major Andante con moto, a work so Romantic in mood, its darker colours revealing underlying sadness, Halevy’s playing of the richly-laden texture allows for the piece to breathe in playing that is sensitively layered, poetic and evocative.


Ariel Halevy referred to Frédéric Chopin as a master of miniatures and the pioneer of the instrumental ballade, a form that Chopin appears to have virtually invented for the piano, one in which the composer did not wish to have any extra-musical narrative content. There has, however, been some speculation as to influence of Chopin’s poet compatriot, Adam Mickiewicz on them. Chopin’s Ballades, four separate pieces, written between 1831 and 1842, products of his maturity, are perhaps the finest examples of his flair for musical shape and tonal organisation. Opening with noble gestures, Halevy’s splendid playing of No.1 Op.23 in G-minor reads into its emotions, featuring their turmoil but also their fragility and (typically Polish) melancholy, enlisting reticence and subtle flexing of tempi. Ballade No.2 Op.18 in F-major has sometimes been understood to relate in some way to Poland's increasingly precarious political status in the early 19th century and Russia's eradication of the last vestiges of Polish independence in 1831, a tumultuous situation that affected Chopin deeply on both personal- and political levels. Halevy, referring to its contrasting moods as “schizophrenic”, moved convincingly between the piece’s idyllic-, semplice-, sometimes haunting agenda and its intense, vehement outbursts. The artist spoke of Ballade No.3 Op.47 in A-flat major as the tightest and most organized of Chopin’s Ballades. His playing of it brought out its positive appeal, moments of Romantic yearning and its liberal-, sweeping- and wholehearted musical gestures (perhaps the allure and glitter of the ballroom). Ballade No.4 in F-minor, Op. 52, was composed in 1842 in Paris and Nohant and revised in 1843. It was dedicated to Baroness Rothschild, who had invited Chopin to play at her Parisian residence, there introducing him to her aristocrat guests. By then, however, Chopin’s health was deteriorating. Rich in variation and polyphony, Ballade No.4, considered by some as the composer’s finest composition, offers, in Halevy’s words “light- and dark moments, drama and poésie”. Starting, as it were, in the middle of a phrase, its bitter-sweet melodies are reflective, their lyrical narrative stopping now and then, as if to reconsider, then starting anew. Halevy gave the work’s tender, introspective gestures time, then provoking the piece to bloom into dazzling outbursts of passion and emotion. His playing invited the listener to indulge in the work’s expansive passages as well as in its intimate, personal agenda.


Though equipped with an easeful, virtuosic technique, Halevy’s playing is never muscular or showy. He avoids the excesses to which Chopin is regularly subjected, rather opting for vitality and beauty of expression. His concise, interesting explanations set the scene for each piece. Born in Jerusalem, Ariel Halevy studied with Ilana Gutmann, Viktor Derevianko, Chana Shalgi and Jonathan Zack, then under Nina Svetlanova and Diane Walsh at the Mannes School of Music (New York). He performs as a soloist and chamber musician in Israel and abroad. His CD of late piano works of Brahms (2014) received glowing reviews. Ariel Halevy teaches at various music schools, also at the Israel Arts and Science Academy (Jerusalem), which he himself attended in his youth.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

"The Indian Queen" - Maestro Andrew Parrott conducts the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and singers in works of Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke

Photo: Yoel Levy
“The Indian Queen”, a selection of Henry Purcell’s secular music, plus a work of Jeremiah Clarke, was the title of the second concert of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season.  Conducted by Andrew Parrott (UK), the orchestra’s honorary conductor as of 2006, soloists were soprano Yuval Oren (Israel), tenor Simon Lillystone (UK), tenor Wolodymyr Smishkewych (USA) and bass Yair Polishook (Israel). JBO founder and director David Shemer was at the harpsichord. This writer attended the event at the Jerusalem International YMCA on December 2nd 2018. The concert was preceded by a lively and enlightening talk by historian Oded Feuerstein (Tel Aviv University) on Restoration England and the fickle character of Charles II.

As one of the greatest composers England and the Baroque era have produced, Henry Purcell (1659-1695) stands alone. The son of a musician in the employ of Charles II, it was royal service that was largely to become his creative environment as well. Henry Purcell began his musical life as a boy chorister at the Chapel Royal, in 1673 becoming an unpaid assistant to the keeper of the king’s instruments. His first formal royal appointment (1677) was as composer-in-ordinary for the violins (succeeding Matthew Locke), becoming one of the organists of the Chapel Royal in 1682. He was also organist of Westminster Abbey (succeeding John Blow). His oeuvre includes chamber music, church music and odes for royal occasions. The 1680s  saw Purcell starting to write for the theatre, composing songs and instrumental pieces for plays by distinguished Restoration dramatists, his one opera “Dido and Aeneas” and the semi-operas, of which “The Indian Queen” was his last, to be completed by his brother Daniel Purcell.

The bulk of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s program consisted of a number of sections of “The Indian Queen”, enough, however, to display Purcell’s consummate skills as a music dramatist. Based on Dryden’s play, Henry Purcell’s music for “The Indian Queen” presents the conflict between Mexican Queen Zampoalla and Peruvians in a classic story of love and war, in which things do not go quite as planned for the queen… With Parrott leading the instrumentalists through the exciting course of detail, colour and characterisation in the work’s symphonies, airs and dances, we were presented with some exquisite string playing, not to mention the colour, variety and beauty provided by trumpet (Amir Rabinovich), oboes and recorders (guest players Olivier Rousset, Nathalie Petibon). The ensemble’s stylish, precise reading of these sections was uplifting in its freshness and energy. In both the Purcell semi-opera and Jeremiah Clarke’s ode, the choir, consisting of the vocal soloists joined by soprano Maya Golan, mezzo-soprano Iphigenie Worbes, tenor Hillel Sherman and bass Hagai Berenson, displayed articulacy, emotional immediacy and a richly-coloured choral sound. With semi-opera being a hybrid genre of theatre and opera, it was clear that bass Yair Polishook was the right artist to portray Envy and Ismeron. His dramatic flair, humour and splendid grasp of British English brought out the small gems and symbols written into the pithy text, as he hissed his way through
“What flattering noise is this,
At which my snakes all hiss?”
In the scene opening Act III, where we meet Ismeron the magician in the conspirators’ cave singing “Ye twice ten hundred deities”, Polishook plays out each gesture, vocally highlighting such words as “round” and “lull” in melismatic word-painting and relishing each succulent English utterance. In the well-known “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly” Yuval Oren’s singing of the somewhat enigmatic rondo air was appealing, with some elegant, easeful embellishments adding interest on repeats. And, as any Purcell work of significance is sure to include a piece based on a ground (ostinato), we heard Purcell’s favourite musical form laced with political meaning in pleasing duets performed by tenors Simon Lillystone and Wolodymyr Smishkewych and Yuval Oren with mezzo-soprano Iphigenie Worbes:
“Greatness clogg’d with scorn decays,
With the slave no empire stays…”

Two chamber works, both also to ground basses, made for delightful interludes between the larger works: The Chacony in G, its lively minor course (characterised by the lowered 7th step) offering solos and duets and the refined Fantasia - three Parts upon a Ground, seasoned with variety, invention and virtuosity on the part of the JBO players.

Henry Purcell died on November 21st 1695 at age thirty-six; the music he had written for the funeral of Queen Mary only eight months earlier was performed again, this time at his own burial service. What then transpired was that several literary figures and composers paid tribute to Purcell by writing works in his memory. “Ode on the Death of Henry Purcell”, a deeply moving piece composed as a homage to Orpheus Britannicus, (as Purcell was referred to) by Jeremiah Clarke, one of Purcell’s younger colleagues at the Chapel Royal, reflects the younger composer’s admiration of Purcell. Clarke himself was also destined to die young. The JBO, under Andrew Parrott, performed the Israeli premiere of this spectacular work. The ode takes the form of a pastoral scene, opening with Arcadian revelling (Lillystone, trumpet, drum) interrupted by a messenger (Oren) who announces the death of “Strephon”. At that point the revelling becomes a lament. The soloists - Lillystone, Oren and Polishook - and choir weave Clarke’s sublime music through the tragic, seamless musical canvas in a performance of strong emotions set into its dialogues. In finely sculpted, noble singing, the choir gave expression to Clarke’s daring choral moments. The soloists enhanced and endorsed the work’s emotions with the various Baroque practices used in emphasizing key words. Musical associations take on more importance in the verbal text as the work draws to an close, with Yuval Oren’s articulate and convincing declaration:
“And see, Apollo has unstrung his lyre,
No more the sweet poetic choir;
The Muses hang their drooping head,
For Harmony itself lies dead.”
Following that, drum beat, strings and choir evoke a sombre funereal picture, adding that “All’s untuned” as the work concludes on a bleak octave and fifth.

A concert offering the elegance of Baroque music, high quality performance and interest.

Photo: Mica Bitton

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Israel Chamber Orchestra hosts Dutch violinist Rosanne Philippens and Israeli jazz pianist Guy Mintus. World premiere of Guy Mintus' piano concerto "On Eagles' Wings"

Rosanne Philippens (photo: Merlijn Doomernik)

Directed by house conductor Ariel Zuckermann, the third concert of the Israel Chamber Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season, “Mendelssohn - Concerto”, included two familiar works of orchestral repertoire and the premiering of a work written for the ICO. Soloists were violinist Rosanne Philippens (Netherlands/Germany) and Israeli jazz pianist Guy Muntus, who soloed in the performance of his piano concerto.


The program opened with Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 in D-major op.36 (1802), a work dedicated to Prince Lichnowsky, one of the composer’s leading patrons. A turning point in Beethoven’s output, marking the transition between the first and second epochs of his compositional style, we hear him here intimating his ambitious plans for a new symphonic canvas. The writing of this symphony also coincided with Beethoven’s final acceptance of the fact that his increasing deafness was incurable. It was at this time that he wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament (actually, a kind of will), in which he described his grief and despair and increasing isolation from society. But, enigmatically, Beethoven’s Symphony No.2 is a work full of drive, energy and exhilarating good humour. Issued in by the composer’s slow, majestic introduction, Zuckermann guides the listener through the symphony’s vivacity, its passages of dialogue between instruments and its characteristic, subtle harmonic shifts, its drama, moments of delightful lightness and sturdy tutti. The players’ precision and freshness of sound invite the audience to take a new look at music so familiar to concert-goers and to be constantly involved in its process. In the radiantly beautiful Larghetto, devoid of trumpet and timpani, the ICO’s fine woodwinds add elaborate detail to its lyricism and warm melodiousness, to be followed by the Scherzo, with its sudden, volatile dramatic shifts, punctuated by a mellifluous Trio. No less quirky or capricious is the Finale, its humour and vitality endorsed by some fine playing by the wind sections.


In 1838, Felix Mendelssohn wrote to his childhood friend, violinist Ferdinand David, concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra: “I would like to compose a violin concerto for you next winter; one in E-minor sticks in my head, the beginning of which will not leave me in peace.” The work would not give him peace for another six years, till he at last found time, the nerve and inspiration amidst his busy concert schedule to complete it. David became involved in every aspect of the concerto’s composition and served as its technical advisor. The work premiered in 1845 with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with David as soloist and Niels Gade conducting. Mendelssohn was thirty-five years old when this composition was completed and was destined to live only another three years. As his last work for large orchestra, the Violin Concerto represents Mendelssohn's most mature orchestral style.  It is also one of his most painstakingly written works. Here, the composer introduced his own innovations into the concerto form: the three movements are ingeniously and seamlessly connected by a single bassoon note and the composer has done away with the convention of having the orchestra introduce all the melodic material in the first movement before the soloist enters. At the ICO concert, from the moment Rosanne Philippens (b.1986) opened with the first subject, her playing elegiac, impassioned and rhapsodic, the audience moved to the edge of their seats for a performance of uncommon personal expression. Playing by heart enabled the artist the freedom of eyeing conductor, orchestra or audience at strategic moments, of initiating, of shaping melodic lines and flexing rhythms and of spontaneity, as she delved into her large personal range of dynamics, soaring from robust volumes down to the most exquisite, gossamer pianissimi. In the (unconventionally placed) cadenza (first movement) she had the audience in the palm of her hand, focusing on its motifs ornamented with sparkling bariolage (repeated string crossings), spiccato (off-the-string bow stroke), and chords across all four strings. The Andante movement, emerging tranquil, cantabile and lyrical, gave way to the final Allegro, wistful at first, then bursting into effervescence (with a fleeting reference to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.) Ms. Philippens’ playing strikes a fine balance between virtuosity, deep musical enquiry and a sense of the personal in music.


Today, Israeli-born jazz pianist, teacher and composer Guy Mintus lives in New York but he spends much time on the go. The 27-year-old artist is as comfortable sharing the stage with jazz greats, composing for classical orchestras and collaborating with masters of traditional music as he is working with children. His solo- and ensemble performances have taken him all over the world - to Brazil, India, Turkey, Israel, throughout Europe, the USA and Canada. “On Eagles’ Wings”, a concerto for orchestra and improvising pianist, was written August-October 2018, but the concept of it has been processing in Mintus’ mind for the last year. It is his first concerto and it has programmatic content. The three movements follow the physical- and emotional process of a person uprooted from one culture and moving to another (familiar to him from his Iraqi-, Moroccan- and Polish background):  Al Tariqa - The Road, Intermezzo - Assimilation, Zikhrayat - Remnants of a Memory and Tikkun.  “Tikkun is an important term in the Jewish world, coming from Kabala. It covers many aspects but, most literally, it means fixing something. Within the context of the piece it's about coming the full circle, finding a home between identities, finding peace with one's own complexities”, in the composer’s words. In the work, the piano represents the individual. As to the title, “On Eagles’ Wings”, it was taken from that of the operation (1949-1950) that brought some 50,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel. An interesting aspect of the pianist’s role is that some piano sections are written out in full, some provide harmonic-, character- or other guidelines, whereas other sections are left entirely to the performer. Guy Mintus’ soundscape is vibrant, rich in rhythmic ideas, fresh and palpable, displaying some very fine orchestral writing. Its styles vary from jazz to western tonal/harmonic writing, to oriental monodic sections. Mintus’ handling of the piano sections, some solo, others integrating with just a few instruments or with the whole orchestra, was confident and virtuosic; he also made use of some plucking-, percussive- and other effects produced inside the piano, at one moment, doubling an oriental melody with his own singing. And then there were those special “Guy Mintus moments” - personal, touching, sensitive...fragile. Addressing the audience before the concert began, Maestro Zuckermann spoke of the ICO’s interest in promoting Israeli composers. The performance was wholehearted proof of this.

Guy Mintus (photo: Lena Gansman)