Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Musical Europe", an opera gala concert hosted by the Romanian Cultural Institute, Tel Aviv, features artists from Romania, Israel and the USA at the Jerusalem International YMCA

Photo courtesy Romanian Cultural Institute, Tel Aviv
On the occasion of the Romanian presidency to the EU Council, a gala opera concert was held by the Romanian Cultural Institute (Tel Aviv) at the Jerusalem International YMCA on February 19th, 2019.

Opening the event, Mr Marton Laszlo Salamon, director of the Tel Aviv Romanian Cultural Institute, spoke of the Jerusalem International YMCA as one of Jerusalem’s finest historic buildings, also referring to it as an “oasis of multiculturalism” and thus a highly suitable venue for the evening’s concert. He spoke of Romania, president of the EU Council from January to July 2019, as a country promoting tolerance, discouraging hatred, respecting equality, the Jewish minority and cultural diversity. The opera evening would be proof of this diversity, he said, with artists from Romania, Israel and the USA.  Mr. Eyal Ezri, Deputy Director of the Department of Culture and Head of Cultural Institutions, also offered words of welcome.

The program consisted of songs, arias and duets, all accompanied by Ukraine-born vocal coach Dr. Sonia Mazar. Producer and artistic director, Mr. Mircea Cantacuzino introduced the artists and spoke briefly about each of the works and their composers. The program opened with “Revedere” (Seeing you again) a Romanian Lied by singer, composer and professor of the Conservatory of Bucharest Aurel Eliade (1870-1941), a setting of a poem by renowned Romanian Romantic poet Mihai Eminescu (1850-1889). It was given an intense, resonant and gripping performance by baritone Valentin Vasiliu (Bucharest).  In a lighter vein, the audience enjoyed Vasiliu’s singing of the irresistibly sentimental Neapolitan “Ti voglio tanto bene” (I love you so much)  by Ernesto De Curtis (lyrics: Domenico Furnò)

Opera singer, recitalist, teacher.and cantor soprano Menorah Winston (USA) has had a distinguished career in Romania and Israel. At the Jerusalem concert, she gave a  moving performance of “Song to the Moon” (in Czech) from Antonin Dvořák’s “Rusalka”, in which the mythological water sprite requests to become human in order for the prince to love her. Winston was joined by Valentin Vasiliu to perform a scene from Act II of Verdi’s “La Traviata”. They presented the Violetta-Germont duet, in which Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont,  demands that she break off her relationship with his son for the sake of his family. The artists played out the drama of the situation, with Vasiliu’s authoritative Giorgio challenged and mellowed by Violotta, as Winston gave credence to her vehement, pleading and noble sentiments.

An evening of opera is incomplete without music of Mozart. Soprano Maria Yoffe, who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1996, has a distinctly silvery and powerful voice and a fine technique; her performance of Variations on “The Magic Flute” attested to these qualities, as she contended easefully with the concert piece’s arpeggios and large leaps. Israeli Opera mezzo-soprano Audelia Zagouri and Vasiliu engaged in a charming, empathic performance of “La ci darem la mano” (There we will give each other our hands) from Act I of “Don Giovanni”. In the aria, we witness Zerlina torn between Giovanni's exhortations and her fidelity to Masetto, her weakening resolve and the final dueting in thirds as the flirtatious Don Giovanni wins her over. Audelia Zagouri’s natural stage presence and stable, fresh voice were well suited to her coquettish portrayal of the youthful widow Norina from Act I of Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”, as she sang “So anch'io la virtù magica” (I too know your magical virtues).

In a duet from Puccini’s “Tosca”, Vasiliu made for a convincing Scarpia - the corrupt, lecherous police chief keen to  manipulate Tosca’s jealous nature to snare her for himself - as Maria Yoffe portrayed Tosca, a celebrated singer entrenched in a situation of  horrifying violence and passionate devotion, resisted the advances of the villainous Scarpia in what was indeed a fine theatrical performance.

Graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Kira Zibnitzky possesses a  mezzo-soprano voice that is warm, rich and well-anchored. In "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Love is a rebel bird) the provocative habanera from Bizet’s “Carmen”, its text counselling on the untameable nature of love, her portrayal of Carmen was a little too reserved and noble for such a free-spirited gypsy as Carmen. Zibnitzky and soprano Monica Schwartz joined to offer a lyrical, gently lilting performance of  “Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour” (Beautiful night, o night of love), the much-loved barcarolle that opens Act III of Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann”. The opera, set in a world of the fantastic, the uncanny and the magical, comprises three love stories. One features a wind-up doll called Olympia. Olympia sings just one aria "Les oiseaux dans la charmille" (The birds in the arbor), indeed ,one of the most challenging arias in opera repertoire, requiring a nimble, yet strong, lyric coloratura voice capable of incredible ornamentations and range. Monica Schwartz, her voice creamy, bell-like and gliding easefully into its higher registers, gave an impressive performance of the aria, entertaining the audience splendidly with her spontaneity, humour and theatrical flair, with Sonia Mazar twice required to wind the doll up for the show to go on!

Taking on board the large range of works, Sonia Mazar accompanied the singers with musicality, consummate skill and grace, attentive to every turn of the music, careful to give the stage to the singers and lyrics. I felt she could afford to be a little more forthright. The festive event was of much enjoyment to those attending.


Monday, February 25, 2019

The Music of San Marco - Andres Mustonen (Estonia) directs the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra and Hortus Musicus in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Photo: Maxim Reider

For Concert No.4 of the JBO’s 2018-2019 concert series, the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra was joined by violinist/conductor Andres Mustonen (Estonia) and his ensemble, Hortus Musicus (Estonia).  The collaboration - “Music of San Marco” - was also an event of the 2019 Mustonenfest. This writer attended the concert at the Jerusalem International YMCA on February 17th 2019.


This concert explored the music of several composers and the style of music that defined St Mark's Venice in the period that saw the end of the Renaissance and beginning of the Baroque eras, the practice of “cori spezzati” (divided choirs) - music performed by multiple choirs, often in alternation, in what later became known as the “Venetian polychoral style”. At St. Mark’s Basilica, this style of music was developed in a kind of institutional way, dependant on the church’s specific architecture, the availability of certain instruments, certain musicians, and especially by the presence of certain composers. Venice – and St. Mark’s in particular, one of the most prestigious musical institutions in Italy – were at the forefront of musical trends for nearly a century. At the Jerusalem concert, offering a representative selection of works from key figures, most of the works written and/or performed at St Mark's, several of them featuring two “choirs” - the JBO (strings, theorbo, harpsichord) and Hortus Musicus (strings, recorders, early winds, percussion, organ), indeed, two distinctly different ensembles in timbre - entering into musical dialogue. At San Marco, the groups, placed in different parts of the basilica, engaging in antiphonal performance, were also not necessarily equal in instrumental (or choral) combinations.


The program opened with both ensembles performing two pieces from Biagio Marini’s “Affetti Musicali” (1617). Each of the 26 pieces of this collection was given a descriptive sobriquet after prominent Venetian family names. In his introduction to the publication, Marini refers to the theory of “conversazione” (conversation). His compositions may have been intended as ‘test’ pieces, meant to inspire conversation among his listeners, thereby arousing their “affetti”. In their published form, the “Affetti musicali” constitute a record of those discussions and the affetti they inspired, as well as conventions of vocal music.  Marini also suggested that instrumental music might convey emotional content equal to that of vocal music.  Marini reached Venice in 1615, joining Monteverdi’s group at San Marco. The concert’s rich selection of antiphonal works included a geographically-inspired piece “La Padovana” by Lodovico Viadana, its colourful exchange the synthesis of polyphonic instrumental music for two (instrumental) choirs, as had developed in Venice. Gioseffo Guami received some of his early training at San Marco probably as early as 1557, studying with Adrian Willaert and Annibale Padovano, then serving there as a singer, in 1588 being appointed to the post of St. Mark’s first organist. Most of his instrumental music was published in a collection of 1601. Two of his double-choir canzonas, comprising many and varied short sections, were heard at the concert. One of the key figures of the Basilica was, of course, was Giovanni Gabrieli. Greatly influenced by (his uncle) Andrea Gabrieli’s writing for cori spezzati, Giovanni brought the spatial technique to a sublime level, a marriage of sound and space; he even received permission to hire freelance singers and players to enlarge the virtuoso ensemble which had been established in 1567. Contrasting their tempos, metres, and rhythms, Mustonen conducted and led several of G.Gabrieli’s innovative canzonas. Claudio Monteverdi took over the management of San Marco’s music program in 1613. The Jerusalem concert featured several of the illustrious Monteverdi’s vocal works (with instruments) - both sacred and secular pieces - opening with “Zefiro torna” (Zephyr returns) to a text by Ottavio Rinuccini. Scored for two tenors and continuo, using a constantly recurring bass line, with dissonances used with great freedom as an expressive tool. Hortus Musicus members tenor Anto Õnnis and baritone Tõnis Kaumann addressed the work’s graceful yet florid vocal lines and its word painting with spontaneity and exuberance. Bass Riho Ridbeck joined the two above-mentioned singers in a theatrical performance of “Dell’usate mie corde” (To the sound of my worn strings) with its strong contrast between expressions of anger and those of love, a piece from Monteverdi’s 8th Book of Madrigals suitably titled "Warlike and Amorous Madrigals”. The program also included two of Monteverdi’s sacred motets. In “Salve Regina” (Hail, holy Queen) Õnnis and Kaumann’s voices wove convincingly in close imitation and canon to create the prayer’s brooding soundscape, the work then concluding with an ecstatic invocation. The three singers joined to give a finely blended performance of the strophic Christmas hymn  “Christe Redemptor omnium” (Christ the Redeemer of all), its atmosphere not indicative of the fact that the piece’s origins were, in fact, a contrafactum (a secular work.)


The Jerusalem International YMCA may not be the right venue for the acoustic effects and ceremonious grandeur of music of the Venetian polychoral style; still, Andres Mustonen drew all the threads of the program together, partnering the highly-coloured Hortus Musical sound with the elegant Jerusalem Baroque sound and incorporating the very beautiful and informed singing of Hortus Musicus’ vocal soloists.

Photo: Yoel Levy



Saturday, February 23, 2019

More notes from the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival: Dmitry Sinkovsky (Russia), La Voce Strumentale and soloists perform Baroque instrumental and vocal works

Maestro Dmitry Sinkovsky (photo: Marco Regrave)
Catering to early music aficionados, two of the most special events of the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival were the concerts directed by Moscow-born violinist, singer and conductor Dmitry Sinkovsky with his ensemble La Voce Strumentale. Taking place in the Big Blue Hall of the Dan Eilat Hotel, both were Baroque concerts featuring several concertos and one vocal work, with Sinkovsky both conducting and soloing in each. Sinkovsky is no new face to the Israeli concert scene, but this was the first visit of La Voce Strumentale - a multinational group of award-winning musicians playing on period instruments. Their Eilat concerts were musical events of high energy, strong emotions and virtuosity, with artists and audiences inspired. The first concert, “Ariadne’s Lament” on February 7th opened with Francesco Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso ”La Folia” for two violins, strings and basso continuo Op.5, No.12 (1727), Geminiani’s arrangement of a violin sonata of his teacher Arcangelo Corelli, Soloing in the variations that use the widely-used modal harmonic progression known as “La Follia di Spagna” or ‘The Folly of Spain”, Sinkovsky offered a contrasted and vividly virtuosic performance of them, the ensemble’s ‘cellist Igor Bobovich also featuring brilliantly in one. Sinkovsky was joined by violinists Elena Davidova and Svetlana Ramazanova in Georg Philipp Telemann’s Concerto for three violins and basso continuo in F major TWV 53:F1, the soloists engaging in performance that was both informed and visceral, fresh and vital, coordinated in its imitative agenda and supported by fine continuo-playing, the latter well anchored by La Voce Strumentale’s solid bass contingent. And to Pietro Locatelli’s concerto grosso “Il pianto d’Arianna” Op.7 in E-flat major (1741), where emotions ran high as Sinkovsky, soloing on the violin, took on the almost vocal role of the weeper to evoke Ariadne’s grief over the abandonment by her lover, Theseus. In what has been referred to as an “opera for strings”, Sinkovsky’s reading of it was shaped with dramatic pauses, flexed, spontaneous and, indeed, heart-wrenching. Two works by Antonio Vivaldi followed, the first presenting Maria Krestinskaia soloing on the viola d’amore in Vivaldi’s Concerto for viola d’amore and string orchestra, RV 393 in D minor. The Baroque-era viola d’amore, an unusual instrument of the violin family, characterised by a seductively charming sound, has 12 (or 14) strings, half of them played with the bow, the others resonating; the instrument produces a thin and wiry sound or one eerily times, even evoking guitar effects. Leading and soloing, Krestinskaia gave a singing, articulate, highly coloured and sincere performance of the work, her careful use of vibrato reserved to endorse specific long notes. Here was a fine opportunity to delight in those sonorities peculiar to the instrument and in Vivaldi’s figuration and embellishments in a virtuosic work rarely heard in the concert hall. The viola d’amore also featured in the performance that concluded the concert - Vivaldi’s motet “Nisi Dominus” - a work in which the composer’s integration of text and characteristic musical devices is fascinating. In this piece, Sinkovsky both directed the players and sang the countertenor role. In the opening “Nisi dominus” (Unless the Lord build the house), he gave effervescent expression to its lively concerto style, enlisting some vocal vibrato, melismatic singing and embellishments, its precipitous leaps contrasted by his tender, gently ornamented singing of “Vanum est vobis” (It is vain for you) in the company of harp and viola d’amore. Eying his audience, Sinkovsky displayed his marvellous pianissimo vocal control in the unique “Surgite” (Rise up) movement. The "Gloria Patri" was sympathetically partnered by the viola d'amore obbligato, Krestinskaia’s playing of it signing out with an elaborate flourish. The slow, gently swaying siciliana style of “Cum dederit” (When He shall give sleep) was a felicitous opportunity for the audience to appreciate Sinkovsky’s large, expressive vocal palette An interesting aspect of Vivaldi’s writing here  was the  “Sicut erat” (As it was in the beginning) its text cleverly paralleled  by a return to the music of the beginning movement...As to the final “Amen”, a separate movement, it was presented with vocal panache on the part of Sinkovsky.


Twenty-four hours were just enough time to catch one’s breath before “Passione, tradimento e vendetta, l’arte del contrasto nel barocco” (Friday February 8th) in which, once again, the audience met Dmitry Sinkovsky, La Voce Strumentale and soloists. Following a festive, full-blooded performance of Franz Richter’s Adagio and Fugue in G minor, we were treated to a selection of concertos and one cantata. Specialist in performance on historic harps, Margret Koell (Austria) soloed on a triple harp  in George Frideric Handel’s Concerto for harp and strings in B flat major HWV 294. The cadenza was her own, improvised on the spot! Considered old-fashioned by Handel’s time, he nevertheless loved the sound of the triple harp, a type of multi-course harp employing three parallel rows of strings instead of the more common single row. Sinkovsky was back on stage to lead and solo in Jean-Marie Leclair’s Concerto for violin and strings in D major Op.7 No.2, delighting the audience with ethereal, cantabile playing of the work’s two Adagio movements, with the maestro’s dapper, consummate playing of the Allegro ma non troppo thrilling and his celebratory playing of the closing Allegro entertaining in its dialogue of short statements of the solo violin answered by the tutti violins. Sinkovsky’s reading of Antonio  Vivaldi’s Concerto for violin and strings in D minor Op.8 No.7 RV 242 “Per Pisendel” (one of the composer’s 230!) is yet another reminder that Vivaldi himself was a famed violinist; Sinkovsky’s  playing of the opening Allegro was as richly melodic as it was virtuosic, its upward leaps adding to the drama, with the closing Allegro bold, irrepressibly energetic and increasingly dazzling in its demands. Sandwiched between these two outer movements, however, was the artist’s leisurely-paced, highly ornamented and moving rendition of the Largo, reaching out to the listener in personal utterance and warmth.  The first French composer to write a concerto for solo instrument and making the most of current trends and what was popular musical taste of the time, Joseph Bodin Boismortier wrote his Concerto in D major (from 1729 or earlier) to be played by ‘cello, viola da gamba or bassoon. ‘Cellist Igor Bobovich’s unmannered playing of it brought out the music’s charm, elegance and direct appeal. In Vivaldi’s secular cantata “Cessate, omai cessate” RV 684, combining moments of melting beauty with compelling directness of utterance, Sinkovsky drew inspiration from the Italian words to present a theatrical work both biting and coloured in effect, as the text’s scorned lover laments his pain and suffering, then swearing revenge against his hard-hearted love. Adding beauty to the singer’s vehement and masterful singing was much interest in Vivaldi’s instrumental writing. For an encore, Dmitry Sinkovsky gave an exquisitely delicate performance of “Dove sei” from Handel’s opera “Rodelinda”:
‘Where are you, my beloved?
Come and comfort my soul.
I am oppressed by torments
and my cruel sorrows
I can only bear when I am with you.’


Monday, February 18, 2019

Notes from the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival. Four concerts. Artists from France, the UK, Armenia, Holland, Germany, Finland, Israel

Jan-Paul Roozeman, Jonathan Roozeman (photo: Maxim Reider)
Opening the 2019 Eilat Chamber Music Festival at the Dan Eilat Hotel on February 6th, the Elias Quartet (UK) offered those seeing in the festival a chamber music concert with a couple of differences. A daring gesture In the world of authentic early music performance and period instruments, the players - Sara Bitiloch, Donald Grant-violins, Simone van der Giessen-viola and Marie Bitiloch-’cello - chose to start with two of Henry Purcell’s Fantazias - Z739 and Z741. Written at a time when viols had largely given way to violins, their inspiration coming from Matthew Locke’s fantasias, Purcell specified that the Fantazias be played on viols. Limiting their use of vibrato, the Elias players (on modern instruments) showed a real understanding of the genre, giving expression to Purcell’s masterful use of contrapuntal devices, tension and dissonance, as each section carried a change of mood. With their strategic use of small pauses, the Elias Quartet’s reading of the Fantazias was moving and unmannered, at the same time both restrained and free. Sandwiched between the two less conventional outer works of the program was Robert Schumann’s String Quartet No.1/1 in A-minor, the Elias Quartet’s rendition of it intelligent and fresh, with attention to detail, gestures and emotions and energy addressed and rewarding, perhaps not  with quite the heart-on-sleeve urgency of Schumann writing all three of the Op.41 Quartets within just two months as a birthday gift to his beloved wife. The last item of the program related to Scottish folk music, a tradition in which Donald Grant is steeped from much exposure to it, having grown up in the Scottish Highlands. The quartet played Grant’s delicate arrangements of several very old tunes and some of his own original- but typically Scottish melodies, some with drones (bagpipes) and also early fiddle technique. Especially fascinating was the 400-year-old practice of “puirt à beul” (mouth music), sung at parties for people to dance to where there were no instruments; Grant’s singing of these “patter” songs was as unassuming as it was agile, evoking the ambience of a social gathering rather than the concert hall.


The Busch Trio (UK) - Omri Epstein-piano, Mathieu van Bellen-violin, Ori Epstein-’cello - performed on February 7th. Formed in London in 2012, the trio began its 2019 Eilat Festival concert with Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in C-major Hob.XV:27, the artists' sparkling, warm and buoyant performance enquiring into the playful-, the serious- and the emotional aspects of the work, their musical teamwork probing the subtleties of the relationships between the parts. A work showcasing the pianist and the piano itself, Omri Epstein’s playing was totally engaging, his approach sensitive, his use of the sustaining pedal indeed generous. This was followed by a very different take on the same tonality - Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio No.2 in C-major - in which the artists affectionately captured the work’s wealth of textures, emotion and complexity of the instrumental weave. In their moving and wonderfully crafted playing, the artists presented Brahms’ inner world of yearning and tenderness, the composer’s distinctive seriousness never far from the surface and ever ready to pervade the scene. And to Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio No.4 in E-minor Op.90, B166 ”Dumky”, a performance bounteous in contrasts, the charm and lushness of Bohemian folk melodies as well as some splendidly pensive and fragile moments. In playing tending to elegance and subtlety, never muscular or overloaded, we were treated to delectable tutti, but also to some highly expressive solos and duets. Formed in 20112, the Busch Trio plumbs the depths of meaning of the piano trio repertoire, presenting it with young energy, sensibilité, emotional honesty and refinement.


“Tzigane”, a morning concert on February 8th, featured violinist David Grimal (France), no new face to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, this time, however, performing with pianist Grigor Asmaryan (Armenia/Germany) who was making his Israeli concert debut. Referring to the theme of the program, Grimal said: “I wanted to combine works connecting with that of George Enescu, such as the César Franck... Of course, if you combine it [Enescu] with Franck’s Sonata in A major and Ravel’s ‘Tzigane’ you have this Romantic- and gypsy side of music...French, Hungarian and Romanian.” The artists chose to open with César Franck’s Sonata in A-major for violin and piano, spelling out the mysterious, gentle nostalgia of the first movement, to burgeon into intensity and grandeur in the Allegro (second) movement. Throughout the work, the artists’ virtuosity served the work’s stiff technical demands, but predominantly its musical agenda, its “orchestrated” aspects, its many moods, its wistful moments and its empathy, all incorporated into playing telling of spontaneity, beauty of tone and seamless collaboration. Grimal has referred to George Enescu’s Sonata No.3 for violin and piano as “music inspired by the composer’s own country and by French music, also bordering on the style of gypsy music.”  Enescu’s careful wording of the work’s subtitle “In the character of Romanian folk music” endorses this. Creating a new and different language of violin expression, Enescu’s score bristles with extremely detailed instructions; his writing for the piano is no less than daring.  Asmaryan and Grimal gave expression to the work’s wealth of musical ideas - its use of oriental-sounding scales, bi-tonality, its large, uncompromising soundscapes versus otherworldly flageolet textures, but also to its references to simple, bucolic dances. The colourful, evocative canvas gave rise to much individual expression on the part of both artists, their magical bowing out of each movement luring the listener into lingering on momentarily in the aura of the music. The program concluded with a work deeply imbedded in Hungarian Gypsy folklore and music - Maurice Ravel’s “Tzigane” - dedicated to- and inspired by Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Aranyi, an artist of decidedly psychic disposition, with whom Ravel consulted in the course of its composition. His letter penned to her read: “You have inspired me to write a short piece of diabolical difficulty, conjuring up the Hungary of my dreams. Since it will be for violin, why don’t I call it Tzigane?”  Whether its origins lie in musical satire or not, the piece is written in true violin idiom, despite the fact that the composer had never played the violin. Opening with the violin alone, playing lento in a lengthy introduction similar to a cadenza or free fantasia and ending with trills in double stops, Grimal presented the audience with a kaleidoscope of violin techniques and textures. Asmaryan’s entry of arpeggiated utterances had a decidedly mollifying effect on the music’s weave, the piano role constituting a graphic imitation of the cymbalum, a native Hungarian instrument (actually, a harp on its side played by tiny hammers.) Ravel’s “showpiece à la hongroise” (in his own words), no stumbling block to Grimal and Asmaryan, constituted a fine festival Konzertstück to round off the recital. For their encores, the artists then played three works of charming melodiousness - Ferenc Vecsey: “Valse Triste”, Moritz Moszkowski: “Guitarre” and Manuel Ponce: “Estrellita” - referred to by Grimal as “some sweets”.


“Arpeggione”, the morning concert on February 9th was performed by Finnish-born brothers Jonathan Roozeman-’cello and Jan-Paul Roozeman-piano. They opened their recital with Luigi Boccherini’s Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano in A-major G.4, an early work of the composer (who was actually one of the best-known ‘cellists of his time). The Sonata is a cross between the late Baroque- and galant styles. Clear and concise, it includes many embellishments but, unlike Baroque composers, Boccherini uses the higher range of the ‘cello and some very fast arpeggiations. Claude Debussy’s Sonata for ‘Cello and Piano in D-minor (1915) was to have been one of six instrumental sonatas the composer had intended to write for various instruments; only three were completed at the time of his death. In its experimental writing, abounding with surprising interjections, short bursts of accented notes, sudden tempo changes, tonal- and non-tonal language and in its unconventional effects in ‘cello writing, the Roozeman brothers presented the work in a spontaneous, expressive and captivating light, as a composition of startling modernist originality, but also reflecting the composer faced with his own mortality. As to the perplexing Sérénade movement, referring to the Sonata’s original title based on Albert Giraud’s poem “Pierrot Lunaire”, (a puppet character from the commedia dell’arte), the artists highlighted its strange, perplexing, detached playfulness before launching into the Finale with its inexhaustible array of instrumental effects. Paying tribute to the country of their birth, the Roozeman brothers performed two short works of Jean Sibelius - the elegiac, contented and appealing Romance in C-major Op.42 (1904), followed by Malinconia for ‘Cello and Piano Op.20 (1900), whose tragic mood reflects the composer’s grief at losing his daughter to typhus. Engaging in its virtuosity and complexity, the artists gave poignant and intense expression to the work’s dark agenda, albeit punctuated by the occasional ray of light, but then to end with the ‘cello reaching down into the profundity of its range with tense trills as the piano plunged into its deepest register. The recital concluded with the duo's playing of Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata in A-minor D.821 (arr: Dobrinka Tabakova). The artists took into consideration the gentle timbre of the short-lived arpeggione - a fretted, six-stringed instrument of strings resonating sympathetically, also referred to at the time as a "bowed guitar". The work also reflects Schubert’s fragility at the outset of his fatal illness. Engaging in its challenges, its tender melodiousness and sparkling virtuosic passages, the Roozeman brothers did not present the Arpeggione as a showpiece, rather, engaging in its warm cantabile expression, its exhilarating and playful aspects and its underlying seriousness, as they graced their playing with subtle flexing and meaningful transitions. For their encore, Jonathan and Jan-Paul Roozeman played Niccolò Paganini’s “Variations on One String on a Theme by Rossini”, the perfect show-capper, the audience revelled in its challenges and vigour!

David Grimal, Grigor Asmaryan (photo: Lior Friedman)