Saturday, June 26, 2021

"Delusions" - Yaron Gottfried conducts the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Solo violin - Roi Shiloach

Roi Shiloach (

Yaron Gottfried (


Conducting the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra’s penultimate event of its 50th concert season, a concert somewhat enigmatically titled “Delusions”, was Yaron Gottfried, who had held the position of music director and principal conductor of the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra between 2002-2013. Soloist was violinist Roi Shiloach. This writer attended the concert at the Tel  Aviv Museum of Art on June 22nd, 2021.


In keeping with Gottfried’s affinity for imaginative and innovative programming, the evening opened with his new full orchestration of Peter Warlock’s “Capriol Suite” (1926), undertaken especially for this concert. Actually, Peter Warlock was the musical nom de plume of British composer Philip Heseltine (1894-1930). Considered one of his most popular works, the “Capriol Suite'' was originally written for piano duet. Warlock later scored it for both string- and full orchestras, although, nowadays, it is mostly heard in the string orchestra setting. The “Capriol Suite'' is a set of dances based on melodies from a manual of Renaissance dances by the French priest Jehan Tabourot (1515-1595) but Warlock’s free treatment of the tunes is reason enough to regard the work as an original composition. Written in the harmonic language of the early 20th century, the composer nevertheless addresses the customs and style of Elizabethan England. Gottfried’s setting sits well with the NK forces; as he juxtaposes sectional timbres, for example, in his effervescent, jocular treatment of Bransles (4th movement) and in “Mattachins'', a sword dance (6th movement), the latter’s harmonic content replete with dissonances, Gottfried evokes the men dancing and clashing their swords on different beats with swiftly changing orchestral colours. And how lyrical and tender the trumpet solo is in the pastoral “Pieds-en-l’air” (5th movement), then to sign out on a diaphanous cluster. Gottfried’s use of percussion is subtle, as in the delicate, courtly “Pavane” (2nd movement). A delightful concert experience, both audial and visual.


During the summer of 1838, Felix Mendelssohn wrote to his long-time friend and collaborator Ferdinand David: “I would like to write a violin concerto for you next winter. One in E minor runs through my head, the beginning of which gives me no peace.” Throughout the compositional process, the composer regularly consulted with David over questions regarding violin technique; David was also responsible for the cadenza. From the beginning of their collaboration, David and Mendelssohn had agreed that this concerto should not be a vehicle for empty showmanship. Premiered in March 1845, the outcome was a serious, exquisite Romantic concerto. Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64, his last large orchestral work, ranks among the finest violin concertos written in the 19th century; in fact, it has been one of the most frequently performed violin concertos in history. Roi Shiloach’s seamless performance of it displayed playing of total conviction, of depth, warmth and humanity, his technical mastery a means to expressing his personal rapport with the work. Moving into the cadenza, one had the feeling that he was rediscovering each motif, and taking the necessary time to do so. In the Andante movement, pensive and rich in songfulness, conductor and soloist kept a safe distance from the excessive sentimentality heard in some performances. The final movement, bristling with roulades, scales, and rapid passage-work in virtually every measure, emerged playful and joyful, as Shiloach presented each gesture with colour and variety. Attentive balance between orchestra and soloist characterized the performance, which was enthusiastically received by the audience. For an encore, Shiloach took the listener into the contemplative, somewhat mysterious mood of the Lento e sotto voce movement from Paul Ben Haim’s Solo Violin Sonata in G (1951).


It was in June 1788 that Mozart began work on his final trilogy of symphonies (the "Jupiter" is the third) completing them all in less than two months. The NKO concert concluded with W.A.Mozart’s Symphony No.41 in C major, K.551, the “Jupiter” title attached to the work after Mozart's death, probably by the violinist/impresario Johann Peter Salomon. From the three grandiose and powerful opening octave strokes introducing the Allegro vivace movement, the audience in the Tel Aviv Museum's Recanati Auditorium knew it was in for an exciting, inspired performance. Powerful tutti, contrasts and some charming, cantabile melodies pervaded (one little melody, launched by the violins quotes Mozart’s comic aria, "Il bacio di mano" -"A Kiss of the Hand"). The players gave poignant expression to the gentle forward motion and yearning of the Andante cantabile movement, to be followed by the Minuetto - a formal dance for an imperial ballroom - its pleasing Classical clarity joining Mozart’s pure sense of joy, together with some delightful woodwind playing. It was Schumann who ranked the symphony, in its majesty of conception, as "wholly above discussion", but it is indeed the unprecedented fugal finale with its overwhelming sense of richness, splendour, and pizzazz, that is the work's most dazzling movement. Addressing its intricate contrapuntal web, Maestro Gottfried presented it with hearty spirit, as the work and the event drew to a close in a flourish of brass and timpani.  





Wednesday, June 23, 2021

"In King Louis' Chambers" - soloists of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra perform a program of chamber works at the International Jerusalem YMCA

Sketch: Miri Shamir


Not quite the lavish palace of Versailles, the elegant conference hall of the Jerusalem International YMCA was, however, a splendid venue for “In King Louis’ Chambers” performed by soloists of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra on June 16th, 2021. JBO first violinist Noam Schuss introduced the works.


Danish organist Dietrich Buxtehude is known mostly for his organ music, his cantatas and for the long journey the young Johann Sebastian Bach undertook to meet him. Sadly, Buxtehude’s chamber works count among the least known of his compositions. Numbering twenty-two in all, they are influenced by Italian models, especially by the instrumental sonatas of the Venetian Giovanni Legrenzi circulating widely in Northern Europe, but they are also oriented to the German tradition of violin writing. All are of the ensemble sonata genre, then still in its infancy. Schuss remarked that Buxtehude’s Sonata in g minor for violin, viola da gamba and continuo was the only work on the program not relevant to the entertainment style of the court of Louis XIV, but that the connection was the viol, an instrument common in French consort music. Performing the sonata at the Jerusalem concert were Noam Schuss-violin, Tal Arbel-viola da gamba, Ophira Zakai-theorbo and Aviad Stier-harpsichord. The artists gave lively utterance to the improvisational, imaginative, expressive and colourful mannerisms of Buxtehude, his style referred to by Johann Mattheson in 1739 as “stylus fantasticus”. Led securely by Schuss, they presented the work’s remarkable contrasts, its hectic rhythms, its virtuosic writing, the frequent dialogues between violin and viola da gamba, its rhetorical devices and dancelike sections. Exciting music indeed and a delectable concert item!


And to music of the French court of Versailles. François Couperin, employed at the fashionable capital of 18th century artistic style, was known as a trendsetter – the author of a stylish and refined style, in which virtuosity and good taste met at eye level. Although better known today as a composer of harpsichord music, he wrote chamber music throughout his career. In “Les Nations”, published in 1726, each of the four “ordres” celebrates a Catholic power of Europe - France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont. The Baroque period was fascinated by such confrontations between nations via the medium of music. Representative of François Couperin’s preoccupation with “les goûts réunis” (the combination of French and Italian styles), each “ordre” is a combination of an Italianate trio sonata with its free-form virtuosity and a large-scale and elaborate French dance suite. Violinist Dafna Ravid joined the players for a performance of “La Françoise”. The JBO soloists presented the many aspects of the work - its fast flow of mood changes, plangent melodies, courtly dance sections, the unmannered statement of some semplice melodies, solid orchestral-type textures and poignant moving moments (the Sarabande’s role), all played articulately and with flair, with suave shaping, elegant ornamentation and stylistic touches. Fine court entertainment, the players combined informed historical perspective with their lively artistic spirit. 


Louis-Nicolas Clérambault was from a well-connected family, his family known for its musical service to French royalty. He himself served both at Versailles and at royal churches during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV. He was particularly known for his cantatas, these incorporating Italian techniques into a thoroughly French genre and mostly dealing quite dramatically with subjects taken from classical mythology and legend. The JBO program concluded with one of Clérambault’s small soprano operas “Léandre et Héro” (1713), sung by Daniela Skorka. Cantatas of this kind and setting were written for performance by small ensembles in the salons of the upper echelons of society. “Léandre et Héro” is based on the tragic story of two lovers. Hero lives on the Grecian side of the Hellespont Strait, Leander on the Asian side. To reach his lover, Leander swims the Hellespont at night. However, as fate would have it, the jealous god of the north wind elicits a storm in which Leander drowns. Hero, grief-stricken, throws herself into the waves. Neptune, however, brings the lovers into the realm of immortals, where they are united forever. Contending well with the French text and its word painting and communicating with the audience, Skorka sang with clarity and beautiful control. She gave convincing expression to Clérambault’s range of emotions - of eager love, heroic resolve; of terror and inconsolable grief - capturing the wistful atmosphere as well as the intense dramatic moments making up such "mini-operas". From the first elegant sounds of the opening trio-sonata-like prelude, the players, in tutti and in different small combinations, made the listener aware of the composer’s brilliant, illustrative instrumental writing - adding intimacy to Hero’s thoughts, evoking the zephyrs to accompany  melismatic vocal passages to some of the movements, creating the ferocity of the storm with its fast passagework for the instruments (including the viola da gamba), then taking one’s breath away with the sudden, hushed finality as the “darkness, intensifying, extinguishes the torch of the night.” However, moving into the world of immortals is guaranteed to send the audience home in good spirits, as the piece concluded with a graceful  Air, the text to its jaunty, buoyant rhythms delivering a reproach to Love – “always on the most tender of lovers fall the cruelest sufferings”.


Without the Versailles Palace’s crystal chandeliers glittering with reflected light from mirrors and its paintings framed by ornate, gold-leafed plaster moldings, the YMCA conference hall is nevertheless an attractive room with fine acoustics, well suited to Baroque chamber music, giving the stage to the artists' scrupulous balance of sound and the subtlety of this repertoire. An evening of festive, high-quality performance by JBO soloists. 


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"Silence Makes Perfect" - a theatrical-musical production conceived and performed by Yael Rasooly and Amit Dolberg, Habait Theatre, Jaffa, Israel

Photo: Ran D. Kopiler


Originally conceived at the Britten Studio and shown at the Snape Maltings Festival of the New (UK), “Silence Makes Perfect” has recently been playing in Israel. This writer attended the performance at Habait Theatre, Jaffa, on June 12th, 2021. The concept of the show is that of the two artists who perform it on stage - a collaboration of Yael Rasooly’s distinctive direction, puppeteering and singing, along with the superb classical playing, arrangements, improvisations and performative presence of pianist Amit Dolberg (Meitar Ensemble). Also involved in the production are Ran D. Kopiler-concept design and 3D masks, Maureen Friedman-costume design, Yoav Barel-lighting, Binya Reches-sound, with puppets designed by Rasooly herself. The language of the performance is English.


Dolberg sets the scene with the furtive sounds and chilling stillness of Claude Debussy’s "Des pas sur la neige" (Footsteps in the Snow). The recorded narrator begins the story in a decidedly naive way, as if telling the story to a child. Here is a happy, musically-talented little girl who takes her music lessons seriously. Opening a ‘cello case, the girl (Rasooly) introduces each side of it as her parents. All props in the show are musical instruments or constructed from parts of them. What quickly transpires is that the girl undergoes sexual assault by a “friend of the family”. Dolberg’s use of music by Debussy, Schubert and Beethoven begins to reveal the girl’s inner struggle, her isolation and growing detachment, these also represented by a ghostly and fragmented rendering of Dido’s Lament (Purcell’:“Dido and Aeneas”) Dolberg’s  improvisations on these works and the build-up of  distortion of their musical elements, some moments joined by Rasooly’s singing, reflect the turmoil created in the girl’s life as her flashbacks, imaginings and psychological state spiral out of control and sounds become more condensed and disturbing by way of looping and layering. The peak of her trauma is represented in a scene on a dark stage hung with large silver boards, the latter manipulated by Dolberg to produce spine-chilling reverberations as the girl fondles a horrific vertebraic, snakelike object. Rasooly and Dolberg now appear in monstrous masks. This performance is not for the faint-hearted and its message is clear:  sexual abuse must not be overlooked or swept under the carpet, that silence is far from perfect. 


Rasooly and Dolberg offer the audience 50 minutes of polished, streamlined and daring performance. With the piano on stage, Amit Dolberg’s musical contribution remains integral and engaging. His acting role, although non-verbal, is no less effective. Yael Rasooly’s fresh, pure soprano voice and her fine British English are as convincing as her depiction of the three stages in the protagonist’s “journey”, each stage endorsed by effective costuming. The performance ends on an optimistic note with the confident, truly splendid and uplifting cabaret-style performance of the now young woman singing Lana Del Rey’s suggestive song “Yayo”:

“Let me put on a show for you, daddy

Let me put on a show

Let me put on a show for you, tiger

Let me put on a show”..


One of Israel’s leading performers of new music, Amit Dolberg has premiered works dedicated to him. Founder/director of the Meitar Ensemble, he has been instrumental in the Centre for New Music (Tel Aviv), the Matan Givol Composers Competition, the Tedarim M.Mus. Program of Contemporary Music (Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance) and the CEME International Festival for New Music.


Trained primarily as a classical singer, Yael Rasooly also studied theatre design in London. She graduated with excellence from the Jerusalem School of Visual Theatre, where she specialized in directing, puppetry and design. As of 2006, she has been creating independent theatre works, performing at international festivals throughout Europe, the United States, South America and the Far East.


Photo: Ran D. Kopiler


Friday, June 4, 2021

Dror Semmel, Matan Dagan and Yoni Gotlibovich perform late Schubert works at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Jerusalem

Dror Semmel(Alex Kaplan)

Yoni Gotlibovich(Meirav Kadichevski)

Matan Dagan(Michael Pavia)

Following the Covid-19 closure of all public events, the Eden-Tamir Music Center, nestling in the magical village of Ein Kerem (Jerusalem), is back to holding live concerts. Two late Schubert trios featured in a concert of the center’s “Best of Chamber Music” series on May 29th 2021. Artists performing were Matan Dagan-violin, Yoni Gotlibovich-‘cello and Dror Semmel-piano. Eden-Tamir Music Center director Dror Semmel opened the event with a few words on each of the works.

Despite his dire illness, Franz Schubert’s final year produced a canon of masterworks, among them, the final piano sonatas, the two massive piano trios and the sublime String Quintet in C major D.956.  His chamber music moves between sensations of rapture and despair, expressed with lush lyricism, with grandness of gesture but also with humility. The works for piano trio - the piano trios and the Notturno - were probably written late in 1827. What came to be known as the Notturno for piano trio D.897 was simply titled “Adagio” by the composer. It is thought to have been originally written as the second movement to the Opus 100 trio, then to be rejected by the composer. Although it does create an aura of night-time serenity, with its harp-like arpeggios in the piano supporting a hypnotic melody expressed by the two stringed instruments, it was, nevertheless, a publisher who decided to rename it. But does the single-movement work, one of the most eloquent examples of Romantic lyricism, not also express anguish and a sense of tragedy? Whatever their concept, the artists at the Ein Kerem concert gave the first tranquil slow-moving melody, the (recurring) subject of this rondo, plenty of rhythmic freedom, the subtly delayed onset of a phrase here and there allowing for a sense of discovery and spontaneity, then to be contrasted by the more assertive and glorious B-section.

Of Schubert’s Piano Trio in E flat major Op.100 D.929, Robert Schumann wrote: "A Trio by Schubert passed across the musical world like some angry comet in the sky."  A gigantic masterpiece, the full musical and emotional range as well as the ambiguity of this extraordinary work of genius present an ambitious undertaking to chamber musicians. Semmel, Dagan and Gotlibovich gave uncompromising energy to the work’s assertive opening gesture, their playing passionate but controlled, with the second subject providing lyrical respite. The second movement is a funeral march for Beethoven, with whom Schubert had felt a deep connection. Schubert had been a torchbearer at Beethoven’s funeral 1827. With the Andante movement’s sombre, haunting melody introduced by Gotlibovich, the full range of its elements was addressed – the introspective, the dark, the dramatic, even the angry and indignant, the latter perhaps expressed in the series of tremolos reaching an enormous passionate crescendo – the artists’ playing reflecting the chiaroscuro elements of Schubert’s palette. Then, as if sweeping aside this most desolate of slow movements, the sparkling Scherzando breathed optimism – carefree, congenial, charming, whimsically accented and dancelike - its middle section more massive in texture. As to the final movement - Allegro Moderato – it is fortunate that Schubert’s complete and unexpurgated original manuscript has been preserved; that was the version the artists chose to play at the Ein Kerem concert. The players showed the listener through its myriad of “scenes”, as they transported the initially relaxed theme into a rhythmically propulsive landscape of frequent modulations and metre changes, then to call back the wistful, soul-searching principal theme from the Andante, the trio ending on a bright, declamatory note.  When asked by his publisher to whom the work should be dedicated, Schubert replied: “This work is to be dedicated to nobody, save those who find pleasure in it.”

Playing with intelligence, the artists presented the music with straightforward and informed competence. For their encore, Dagan, Gotlibovich and Semmel gave another rendition of the E flat major trio’s  Andante con moto movement, revisiting it with both ardour and restraint, with poise and warmth of sound