Friday, August 24, 2018

The 2018 Sounding Jerusalem Festival gets off to a lively start with "Poet Acts"

Photo: Gerald Rockenschaub

The Sounding Jerusalem Festival was established in 2006 and continues to be directed by Austrian ‘cellist Erich Oskar Huetter. A chamber music project of the highest level, its aims are to reach people living in Jerusalem and the surroundings, irregardless of ethnic-, social- or religious backgrounds, “to promote magnificent and dynamic chamber music within superb surroundings...fostering...respectful dialogue between people from Europe and the Middle East” in Huetter’s words. The 8th Sounding Jerusalem Festival, “Humanistic Instinct”, will include nine concerts that are free to the public as well as workshops and seminars for young musicians.

“Poet Acts”, the opening event of the 2018 festival, took place in the historic courtyard of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem’s Old City on August 21st.  Wolfgang Schmidt, provost of the Jerusalem Redeemer Church, extended a warm welcome to the audience, suggesting that holding the festival in the Old City was a symbol of sharing life, with music as a mediator. Also present at the concert were diplomatic representatives of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia. In Erich Oskar Huetter’s introduction, the director said he hoped these would be encounters whose memory we would take away with us. Referring to the festival as a “strong mid-European initiative”, he spoke of the concept of “humanistic instinct” as two ideas that might conflict with each other, but as coming together in the universal language of music.He alluded to the opening concert as “beginning a new journey”.

The program opened with flautist Vanessa Latzko (Austria), guitarist Armin Egger (Austria) and  Huetter performing Hans Neemann’s arrangement of Joseph Haydn’s Cassation in C-major. A term common in southern Germany, Austria and Bohemia in the mid-to-later part of the 18th  century, (the word 'cassation' is of disputed origin) there is no discerning specific formal characteristics that could distinguish the cassation from other serenade-like genres. Considering the fact that cassations were, however, intended primarily for entertainment and often for outdoor performance, here was the ideal occasion for such a work. Haydn termed several of his early chamber works cassations (or divertimentos.) A work of galant appeal, Viennese good humour and caressing melodies, Latzko soloed elegantly, at other times, engaging in dialogue with the guitar; Egger at times joined Huetter to form a more solid accompaniment for the flute, with Huetter taking care throughout not to mask the delicate timbres of the flute and guitar.

The Grand Trio by W.A.Mozart (K. 304) is the fourth of the “Palatine” Sonatas originally written for violin and piano in 1778 when the composer was living in Paris. The arrangement by French guitarist and music publisher Pierre Jean Porro (1750-1831) calls for violin, guitar and ‘cello. The form of this work is atypical, having only two movements, the opening Allegro non tanto followed by a Tempo di Minuet. It is one of the composer’s very few sonatas composed in minor keys, the reason for this endorsed by Dutch musicologist Marius Flothius, who wrote:  ”Mozart’s loneliness, indeed his feelings of despair in the great city, where he was largely neglected and where his mother fell ill and died, leave their mark on this work.” With the flute taking on the violin role, the piece assumes a more lyrical character in this scoring, presenting less of the work’s intense and painful message as heard when performed with violin. But the artists highlighted the work’s mysterious elements, as they presented pleasing solos and duets in attentive awareness and a strategic balance of sound.
Then to what Erich Oskar Huetter referred to as “opening up the concept”. Leaving the world of Classical chamber music, the artists went on to perform pieces by American composer Philip Glass (b.1937), beginning with Armin Egger’s very fine guitar solo from “Einstein on the Beach”, his playing intricate, articulate and beguiling as he guided the listener through the “additive process” that constitutes the rhythmic core of Glass’s style, but also through  its harmonic elements and melodic cells and giving the stage to the piece’s contrasting sections. “Facades”, referring to the facades of buildings on Wall Street, was originally written in 1981 to accompany a scene in the cult film “Koyaanishqatsi”. The scene, of New York’s Wall Street on a Sunday morning, was eventually cut from the film, but the piece later became movement no. 5 of “Glassworks”, Glass’s groundbreaking studio album that remains highly representative of his style. A meditative piece, Latzko and Egger’s performance of it was appealing and tranquil, with Glass’s dissonances appearing, disappearing and reappearing in the guitar role, as the Old City’s church bells outside added their voice to the composition. In “The Poet Acts” (whence  the concert’s title) Huetter’s haunting, warmly nostalgic playing of the work’s sweeping, Romantic melodies was complemented by Egger’s gently swayed rhythms.

Taking the concept in a different direction, we heard Aniada A Noar (Austria) in a selection of Austrian folk songs and dances as well as in performances of  their own original folk-style material. Formed 33 years ago, the trio displays remarkable versatility:  the members - Wolfgang Moitz, Bertl Pfundner and Andreas Safer - play the violin, button accordion, recorder, the pipes, guitar, bird whistles, Jew’s harp, etc; they all sing and harmonize well. Singing of winter, a musician’s life, trains and other subjects, their music-making bristled with joy, humour and colour as they conjured up scenes of Austrian nature, village life and merrymaking, together  with foot-stamping, whistles and the wink of an eye. To end the evening’s concert, all six artists joined to perform a folk-style piece that gradually spiralled into a hopping, carefree dance before signing out in winsome gestures.

No comments: