Saturday, November 3, 2018

When literature and music meet in the family: works of writer Dan Tsalka and pianist Michael Tsalka at a festive book launch of Dan Tsalka's book of essays in Jaffa, Israel

Dan Tsalka (photo courtesy the Tsalka family)

The launch of “Kol Hamassot” (All the Essays) of the late Israeli writer Dan Tsalka took  place in the intimate venue of the Teiva basement hall in Jaffa, Israel on October 27th 2018. Hosted by Mrs. Aviva Tsalka, the event was attended by people who had known the writer and his works, by literary figures and artists of different milieus. Dan Tsalka (1936-2005) was born in Warsaw. In World War II his family fled to the Soviet Union, living in Siberia, later in Kazakhstan. At the close of the war, he returned to Poland with his family, living in Wroclaw, where he studied humanities at the university there. In 1957 he immigrated to Israel. He studied philosophy and history at Tel Aviv University, then continuing his studies in France, also residing for a time in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy. Living in Tel Aviv, he engaged in editing and translation, publishing his first book in 1967. Published by Xargol Books (Tel Aviv) “Kol Hamassot”, a compendium of philosophical musings on a huge variety of subjects, collates three of the author’s books.


Emceeing the evening was Jonathan Nadav, managing director of the Hebrew University Magnes Press, who set the scene with his reading of a witty piece from the book about cigars and public figures associated with them. The first speaker was Prof. Aminadav Dykman (Dept. Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem), who had been a close friend of Dan Tsalka. He defined Tsalka as a World War II writer, a “member of the République des Lettres”, a writer who had spent time in Europe, but who decided “it would all happen” in Tel Aviv.


Prof. Ariel Hirschfeld (Dept. Hebrew Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) discussed some of the book’s contents and style, pointing out its very original and pithy writing, also making reference to Tsalka’s unique personality and limitless knowledge. Hirschfeld talked of the author’s awareness of all that was happening around him, of his familiarity with literary works and of his ability to engage in the minutest of detail of the huge range of subjects on which he touched. An image Hirschfeld used was of Tsalka “hovering above whatever situation he was observing, commenting on what he saw down below.” Hirschfeld’s reading of the writer’s portrait of poet/actor Avraham Halfi, in which Tsalka admits that he did not understand Halfi’s “unreal” inner world, was indicative of the writer’s sincerity and honesty. Hirschfeld concluded by making reference to Dan Tsalka’s noble humility and sincerity and to his belief that art exists in order to improve human life.


Dan Tsalka’s son – internationally renowned keyboard artist Dr. Michael Tsalka - performed a selection of piano pieces, opening with Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D Major (K.119), a piece evocative of the Spanish guitar, its unconventional textures suggestive of Spanish gypsy music and early flamenco. Then to the pianist’s sensitive, contrasted and gently embellished reading of Mozart’s downhearted Adagio in B minor for piano K 540, to be followed by a small taste of French composer Cécile Chaminade’s “Six pièces humoristiques” (1897); Tsalka’s reflective and delicate playing of this lyrical salon music delighted with its ambience of fin-de-siècle Paris. His rendition of movements from Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun’s “Four Keyboard Pieces” (1991), pieces straddling modality and tonality, abounded in colour, pianistic textures and imagination. The musical section of the event concluded with Michael Tsalka’s performance of another small gem of the musical salon - Paderewski’s Nocturne Op.16 No.4 - with the pianist’s gracious and wistful playing endorsing the piece’s sweet sentimentality with just a touch of melancholy.


The event ended with Jonathan Nadav’s reading of another excerpt from “Kol Hamassot”.

Michael Tsalka (photo: David Beecroft)

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