Thursday, October 25, 2018

Maestro Christian Lindberg and the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra host the Swedish Vocal Ensemble

Opening the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra’s 48th season “The Great Opening” was conducted by Christian Lindberg (Sweden). Mandolin artist Shmuel Elbaz is the NKO’s conductor in residence. Renowned trombonist and composer, Lindberg, beginning his third season as conductor and music director of the NKO, spoke of the new season’s theme of “Eternal Images”. Joining him and the orchestra were eight singers of the Swedish Vocal Ensemble. This writer attended the concert in the Recanati Auditorium of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on October 20th, 2018.


The program opened with Franz Schubert’s Mass No.2 in G-major D.167. Composed in less than a week when Schubert was 18 (1815), and the second of his six Masses, it was originally scored for choir, string orchestra, organ and soloists, but eventually included brass, winds and percussion. The strong, luxuriant voices of the eight singers of the Swedish Vocal Ensemble (led by bass Joakim Bergdal) contended well with the orchestra in a performance that was both lush and wonderfully contrasted - from the tender, velvety singing of the Kyrie to the Sanctus in all its grandeur and unleashed joy and ending with outstanding beauty and reflective mood of the Agnus Dei. It was a celebration of Schubert’s cantabile melodic writing, his wonderful use of counterpoint and concertante writing. The NKO’s brass section emerged articulate and buoyant and we were treated to some fine solos by tenor George Källström, bass Helgi Reynisson and the creamy, finely chiselled singing of soprano Isabella Lundqvist.


The objective of Antonin Dvořák’s Czech Suite in D-major op.39 was to create a work of a distinctively Czech character. Actually a five-movement serenade, premiered in 1897 in Prague, it bristles with gorgeous melodies and lavish orchestration. From the sweeping, singing violin melody of the opening Preludium, the work conjures up images of the Bohemian landscape. The NKO’s rich palette of orchestral colour brought out the exuberance and sense of well-being of Czech folk music and dance. The work also provided the audience with opportunities to hear solos performed by some of the orchestra’s excellent woodwind players - the clarinet (Igal Levin) in the Minuet, the English horn (Miki Lam) and flute (Michal Tikotsky) in the Romance and 1st oboe Hila Tzabary-Peleg leading into the Finale. Dvořák himself, referring to the village bands of his youth in Nelahazeves, wrote that the “clarinets and bassoons make their entrance just as they do in Bohemia.” Not devoid of a few wistful moments, the performance was definitely stamped with Lindberg’s uncompromising joie-de-vivre.


For most of the audience, hearing Leopold Mozart’s Concerto in D-major for alto trombone, referred to by Lindberg as the first trombone concerto, was a first! Composed in 1755 (a year before the birth of his son Wolfgang Amadeus) and (according to Lindberg’s research) probably written to be played by the virtuosic Austrian court musician Thomas Gschladt. (Leopold Mozart himself wrote, "In the absence of a good trombone player, a good violinist can play it on viola."), the work was lost for many years. It was discovered as three movements for trombone (viola or horn) and orchestra (among other pieces) in the Benedictine Seminary at Seitenstetten, Austria.  Christian Lindberg edited it in 1984 and has recorded it with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.  At the Tel Aviv concert, Lindberg both soloed and conducted, his playing, making it clear to the audience - as in the first movement cadenza and the jaunty Presto - that this concerto calls for a highly experienced player. Of special beauty was Lindberg’s honeyed, expressive and dynamically varied playing of the Adagio middle movement.


The NKO’s opening concert for the season included the world premiere of Israeli composer Yossi Ben Nun ’s “Three Theatre Cues for Orchestra”, a work commissioned by the orchestra. A pianist who has soloed with all major Israeli orchestras, Ben Nun (b.1958) has spent the last 30 years composing music for theatre, work that “involves sidestepping through minefields, meeting challenges head on and even compromising with his fellow professionals over the final outcome of his musical endeavour” in his own words. Ben Nun, who today serves as the Habima Theater’s composer-in-residence, explains that people attending a theatrical production will only have the chance of hearing the play’s incidental music once, this meaning that it must be communicative and of immediate appeal.  “Three Theatre Cues for Orchestra” was written with the NKO instrumentalists’ richly-coloured signature sound in mind.  The audience delighted at the two movements (why not the third as well?) of the work performed at this concert: “Urban Dream”, its tight, many-layered, full-on, jazzy textures alternating between frenetic energy and moments of  sweeping melodiousness, and “Those who Walk in the Darkness”, a tango whose  rhythms and streamlined writing are as sultry and provocative as any tango from Río de Plata you might hear, with its almost atonal violin solo (Gilad Hildesheim) there for good measure.


The program concluded with J.S.Bach’s "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" BWV 140 (Sleepers Awake). Written in 1731 and one of Bach’s most famous and best-loved works, it is based on a chorale by Philipp Nicolai. Not performed here on historic instruments (there was, however, a harpsichord: Aviad Stier), it was indeed authentic in the fact that there were only eight singers to carry out solos and choral sections, and they did it admirably. Listening to the uplifting opening movement, one is reminded by Lindberg and his players that Bach’s instrumental scores are no less exciting than his choral writing. Oboist Hila Tzabari Peleg and 1st violinist Gilad Hildesheim’s captivating solos added fine detail and Baroque splendour to the performance. George Källström’s expansive, fresh young voice and careful shaping of words gave meaning to texts and silvery-voiced soprano Isabella Lundqvist and bass Helgi Reynisson wove their separate agendas expressively into “Mein Freund ist mein” most delightfully in the penultimate movement. A beautiful performance, ending majestically and on a serene note to bring man and angels together in sound:

“Let Gloria be sung to You
With mortal and angelic tongues,
With harps and even with cymbals…”


Joined by Lindberg on trombone, the Swedish Vocal Ensemble then returned to the stage to send the audience off with a Swedish song about the pleasures of spring. In his friendly informality, Maestro Lindberg’s energy and enthusiasm makes classical music accessible to a large range of concert-goers.



Photo: Yael-Atia MosesAdd caption

No comments: