Monday, November 29, 2021

Trio Noga returns with a program of Mozart, French music and Israel composer Matan Serry's arrangement of a song by Sasha Argov

Idit Shemer,Shira Shaked,Orit Messer-Jacobi(courtesy Trio Noga)


Trio Noga is back with a new program. As most befitting to salon music, the recital on November 24th 2021, the first of an Israeli concert tour, took place at a private home in Jerusalem. Members of the trio are Idit Shemer-flute, Orit Messer-Jacobi-'cello and Maggie Cole (US/UK)-piano. With Maggie Cole unavailable for the current series, Shemer and Messer-Jacobi were joined by Israeli pianist Shira Shaked. 


Trio Noga's program opened with W.A.Mozart's first mature work of the piano trio genre, the Divertimento in B-flat major K.254 (1776), a work representing the unquestioned supplanting of the harpsichord by the pianoforte (actually, the fortepiano), this resulting from important technical advances in piano-building in Vienna. Here, the violin part was substituted by flute (Shemer), and most effectively too. From their buoyant reading of the opening Allegro assai, to the delicate, singing Adagio movement with its somewhat unsettled middle section, to the charming Rondo:tempo di menuetto, the artists gave engaging expression to Mozart's small, lightweight gestures, the work's passing minor dramas and to its many dialogues between piano and flute. 


Written originally for piano four hands, Claude Debussy's "Petite Suite", L.65, has undergone many transcriptions. Here, hearing 'cellist/composer Doron Toister's setting, we were immediately drawn into the water-borne serenity and languor of "En bateau" (Sailing), as inspired by a poem of Paul Verlaine, its text describing a sensual ride in a boat on a dark lake at dusk. The instrumentalists recreated the spry canvas of "Cortège" (Retinue), a saucy piece endorsed with a touch of Commedia dell'Arte frivolity and alluring harmonic turns. The final two movements, "Menuet", with its pastoral sensibility and "Ballet", brimming with Parisian joie-de-vivre, delighted the audience with the trio's lightness of touch and rhythmic badinage, with Shemer's poignant, nostalgic and sparkling playing giving voice to the music's mostly pastel, French flavour.


Then, to music of French flautist/conductor Philippe Gaubert (1879–1941), often referred to as a "weekend" composer, whose 80-or-so works include several for flute that have become an important part of the instrument's repertoire. Despite his prominence as a conductor and soloist, it is his flute-oriented compositions for which Gaubert is best remembered. Shaked and Shemer played "Deux Esquisses" (Two Sketches for Flute and Piano). In the first, "Soir sur la plaine" (Night on the plain), opening with a fleeting association of Debussy's "Syrinx", a piece rich in fine writing for both instruments, in lyricism, chromaticism and complex rhythms, piano and flute take on independent roles, creating a captivating weave, albeit transparent. "Orientale", another fine concert piece, its piano part at times evoking bells, offers a suggestion of the mysterious and exotic East. Almost orchestral at times, indeed, characterized by sweeping 'cello melodies and long phrases, Trio Noga's playing of Gaubert's "Pièce romantique" emerged collaborative, spontaneous and sensitive. 


The house concert concluded with young Israeli composer Matan Serry's arrangement of Alexander "Sasha" Argov's "The Purple Dress" (lyrics: Chaim Hefer), a setting written especially for the Noga Trio. One of the preeminent composers of modern Hebrew song, Argov composed songs that remain an important body of works in the canon of Israeli music, his unique and complex musical language integrating popular- with classical elements. Serry's arrangement is lush, imaginative and suave, offering each of the players the opportunity to shine. Leaving a taste for more, I would suggest Serry arrange two or three more of Argov's songs to produce a congenial group of pieces. 


A delightful evening of house music. Kudos to Shira Shaked for contending with the challenges of performing on an electric piano. Trio Noga was established in 2015, with the aim of offering its listeners a new, fresh approach to a well-known and much-loved repertoire, as well as introducing new and rare works to its audiences.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

The 2021 Jerusalem Piano Festival concludes with a concert featuring three Mozart piano concertos. Conductor: Keren Kagarlitsky

Maestra Keren Kagarlitsky (Rami Zarenger)


The Jerusalem Theatre was abuzz with people attending various events of the 9th Piano Festival taking place there from November 10-13 2021. Under the artistic direction of Prof. Michael Wolpe, this year's Piano Festival marked 230 years of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's death. With the Henry Crown Auditorium filled to capacity, the concert concluding the festival was played by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Keren Kagarlitsky. On the program were three Mozart piano concertos, these featuring five soloists. 


Soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major K.271 was Ishay Shaer.  A work known as the “Jeunehomme,” this was the first of Mozart's piano concertos to appear in print. The work was dedicated to a certain Victoire Jenamy (1749-1812), the daughter of a famous 18th-century ballet master. Tailor-made to Shaer's easeful, clean playing and sensibility, this concerto requires a delicate touch together with superior technical facility, its weave comprising singing melodies decorated with turns, grace notes, and other galant-style gestures, these details more challenging than would appear to the listener. Shaer played along with Mozart's cheeky subversions in the opening Allegro, the Andantino juxtaposing a mournful minor theme with a bittersweet major theme, with the subjects becoming increasingly embellished as the movement progressed. As to the Rondo movement, its spirited, breathless folk-inspired theme and episodes were unexpectedly punctuated by a courtly minuet, probably another case of Mozart’s inexhaustible wit. Who knows whether Mademoiselle Jenamy was capable of playing the concerto? Mozart evidently thought highly of the work, as he himself performed it several times. Shaer brought it off with elegance, vitality and attention to its filigree details.


The B-flat Concerto No.27, K. 595 is not only Mozart’s final work in the form but also the last piece he was to perform in public (on March 4, 1791. He died that December at age 35.) Although 1791 was a terrible year for Mozart, Concerto No.27 does not, however, reflect the ill fortune now dominating his life and, with no trumpets or percussion there to dazzle the listener, Mozart's frequent reliance on the winds enhancing its warmth of timbre emerges as a salient feature. Soloing in this concerto, Eitan Globerson joined Kagarlitsky and the JSO in a performance that was subdued, intimate and plainspoken. From the sotto voce piano entry into the gentle, graceful weave of the opening Allegro movement, Globerson's playing in the Larghetto was profound, his phrasing and shaping poignant and elegant. In the final Allegro rondo, his range of emotional pianistic colour amalgamated with yje movement's classical-style virtuosity in playing that was never muscular, its figurations never sounding mechanical, his performance remaining controlled, yet brimming in Mozartian charm and good humour. As to the cadenzas, Globerson's playing of them was radiant, imaginative and suspenseful.


Mozart's Concerto No.7 for three pianos in F major K.242 brought the event and, indeed, the 9th Piano Festival, to a glittering close. Written early in 1776, it was commissioned by Countess Maria Antonia Lodron, whose family (neighbours of the Mozarts) played a major role in Salzburg as art patrons. The countess hosted Salzburg's leading musical salon. Mozart tailored the work to the keyboard skills of the countess and her two daughters, Maria Antonia and her elder daughter Aloisia being gifted amateur players, with the younger daughter Giuseppa a less experienced pianist. At the Jerusalem concert, duo pianists Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony performed the more challenging roles, with Yaron Rosenthal playing that written for Giuseppa. From the very first notes of the Allegro, a movement characterised by its march-like opening, its lyricism, its minor, fleeting dramas and the cadenza playfully shared by all three pianists, there was a sense of camaraderie and musical connectedness between pianists and orchestra. The Adagio offered the audience bountiful magical moments, its feather-light gestures, velvety sonorities, personal expression and subtle dialogues alluring and wistful, to be followed by the noble Rondeau-Tempo di Minuetto, courtly in character and rich in its assortment of musical ideas, to be signed out with a droll coda deception, another Mozartian wink of an eye. A work to delight players and listeners, indeed, excellent festival fare, the viewing of its performance is, in my opinion, strategic to one’s full appreciation and enjoyment of it. This was clear by the enthusiastic response of audience in the Henry Crown Hall. 


Competently drawing orchestral players and soloists together at this festive event, young up-and-coming Jerusalem conductor Keren Kagarlitsky directed the proceedings with artistry, insight, discretion and clarity of concept as to Mozart's music, highlighting its "deep emotion with a touch of lightness, which is the most difficult thing to do", in the words of French conductor and composer Alexandre Desplat. 


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The 2021 Piano Festival (Jerusalem) - Duo pianists Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony perform works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sister Nannerl

Tami Kanazawa, Yuval Admony  (Yonatan Shlomo)


Under the artistic direction of Prof. Michael Wolpe, the 9th Piano Festival (November 10-13, 2021) taking place at the Jerusalem Theatre, marked 230 years of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. At the centre of the festivities were several of Mozart's piano concertos, their solo roles performed by Israeli pianists of various ages. In addition to the concerto events, there were chamber music concerts, these also featuring little-known works of the composer, one of Mozart's sister Maria Anna (Nannerl), jazz (Guy Mintus Trio), vocal music and some new works performed by the Jerusalem East-West Orchestra. Prof. Wolpe gave two lectures. 


A recital on November 10th by duo pianists Tami Kanazawa and Yuval Admony turned out to be a family affair, starting with the fact that the two pianists, widely-performing artists, who have received prizes and rave reviews in the United States, Europe, Canada, Cyprus, Israel, Korea and Japan, are a married couple. They opened their recital with an arrangement of Mozart's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.15 in B-flat major K.450. Originally scored for piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, and strings, the K.450 has been quoted as being the composer's most difficult concerto. In a letter to his father in 1784, Mozart referred to Concertos Nos.15 and 16 as "concertos which are bound to make the player sweat", also pointing out the particular importance of the wind instruments in the two works, both elements to be reckoned with when hearing it as Hugo Ulrich and Robert Wittmann's arrangement for 4 hands (one piano.)  Admony (primo) and Kanazawa (secondo) presented the character of each movement - the charm of the Allegro, the dignified and serene variation-form Andante and the spirited Allegro finale, with moments of the latter's joyful rondo form a gentle reminder of Mozart's predilection for opera buffa characters. The artists' playing was crisp and buoyant. Admony felt the challenge of this setting to be the maintaining of clear dialogue between soloist and "orchestra" and the contrasting of intimate solos with tuttis. In the finale, he decided to split the main theme between the primo and secondo in order to evoke convincing dialogue between solo piano and woodwinds.


As children/teenagers in the 1760s, Mozart and his gifted older sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) greatly popularized four-hand playing all over Europe. It is thought by many that it was Nannerl who had written the Sonata in C major K.19d for four hands. In Mozart’s day, it was customary for the woman to play the primo and the man the secondo. Wolfgang and his sister always played this way, possibly instigating the custom. Indeed, at the Jerusalem Piano Festival concert, Kanazawa took on the primo role. Kanazawa and Admony's reading of the work sparkled in grace and elegance, their discriminating use of the sustaining pedal never clouding the work's singing melodiousness and charming naivete, its wistful and noble episodes and its understatement. Not to be ignored was the richness of the composer's ideas, moods and keys explored in the first movement's development section. Following the appealing, sweetly ambling Menuetto, with its somewhat more agitated F major Trio, Admony and Kanazawa invited the audience to join them on a romp through the final Rondo: Allegretto movement, its unexpected harmonic diversions appearing in the episodes, the sudden pause (always surprising!), the brief, searching Adagio and the final return of the principal theme. One is reminded of the painting of the Mozart family from around 1780 depicting young Nannerl and Wolfgang in cross-handed technique at the keyboard, their father standing by with violin, a portrait of their recently deceased mother behind them on the wall. From 1769 onward, having reached marriageable age, Nannerl was sadly no longer permitted to perform in public.

An appealing evening of salon music,leaving a taste for more!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Pianist Imri Talgam performs works of Conlon Nancarrow, Morton Feldman and Frescobaldi at the Teiva, Jaffa, Israel

Imri Talgam (©Jean-Baptiste Millot)


The draw to attend pianist Imri Talgam's recital at the intimate venue of the Teiva in Jaffa, Israel, on November 6th 2021 was the opportunity to hear works of Conlon Nancarrow played live and to revisit the unique music of Morton Feldman. But Talgan's programming had a surprise in store - a work of Frescobaldi.


Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997) was an American-born composer who lived and worked in Mexico for most of his life. Much of his oeuvre was intended for the player piano, a parlour instrument found in many homes in the early 20th century. However, by the time Nancarrow made the decision to write for- and produce the rolls for these instruments in the late 1930s,  pianolas had become almost obsolete. But it was this first mass-produced instrument for the playback of recorded music that enabled the composer to achieve the precise performance of the convolutedness of his rhythmic ideas and the relationships between them. Talgam is one of today's pianists who are undaunted by the ingenious complexity of Nancarrow's writing. The recital opened with three of the composer's few pieces written for live piano. In "Two Canons for Ursula" (1989), dedicated to Ursula Oppens (an American pianist with whom Talgam has studied), described by the artist as canons of tempi and ratios, Talgam gave articulate and pleasing expression to the mathematical beauty and elegance of Nancarrow's style, to its mix of both tonal chords and clusters and its many playful moments, as he met the style's stringent technical demands with mastery. Following nearly 40 years of composing for the mechanical piano, Nancarrow was drawn into Yvar Mijhashoff's international tango project, one involving composers from all over the world. The title of "Tango?" bears a question mark because the piece has nothing to do with a tango. Indeed, it is a set of variations, combining two to three tempi functioning concurrently. In contrast to some muscular, soulless readings of the short piece heard, Talgam dips into his palette of dynamics, sensitively colouring the various sections in different hues, alternating forthright, jaunty playing with poetic, delicate, indeed sotto voce sections, to wind the piece up with playing displaying a hearty sense of well-being.


If Nancarrow was known to have said "I don’t even remember what a tango sounds like.", Girolamo Frescobaldi's "Cento partite sopra Passacagli" (100 Variations on the Passacaglia) does need some clarification. Frescobaldi (1583-1643), also dealing in questions of tempi and multi-dimensional textures, was certainly familiar with the passacaglia form and also with the chaconne, making use of both here, but the title of "100 Variations" may just have been a metaphor for "many variations", these based on a brief ostinato. Talgam refers to the work as "one of the composer's strangest", commenting on the fact that the bass figure never occurs twice in the same way. What is interesting about the piece is that the composer, in his typically free, declamatory style and sheer fertility of invention, weaves other forms, such as the courante, into its extensive fabric. Talgam's playing of the separated, clearly contrasting sections, each with its own specific ambience, made for intelligible and riveting listening. Usually heard played on the harpsichord, Talgam's performance of the "Cento partite sopra Passacagli" on the modern piano, his tasteful, clean use of the sustaining pedal never blurring his eloquent fingerwork, was subtle and articulate in voicing, as he called attention to the composer's occasional unpredictable harmonies. 


The recital concluded with American composer Morton Feldman's final work for piano "Palais de Mari" (1986), an introspective composition inspired by a painting of the ruins of the ancient Babylonian Palace of Mari the composer had seen at the Louvre in Paris. Feldman (1926-1987) was attracted to it for its quality of imperfect symmetry. In keeping with the composer's idiosyncratic style, the work consists of small individual motifs strung together in the manner of "sounds that breathe" (Feldman). Talgam's fine-spun playing of the mostly consonant pastel-shaded, shimmering sonorities, refined by the use of the damper pedal, invited the listener to follow what would, at first, appear as static, identical repetitions, but whose course becomes varied by gradual, slight changes of rhythm, pitch, and temporal placement. Not the kind of work accessible to the rapid-fire mindsets of many people today, but for those in the audience willing to relax and give themselves to the style and its pace, Talgam's performance presented an introspective and aesthetically beautiful and bewitching listening experience.  


Imri Talgam grew up in Tel Aviv. Following graduation from Tel Aviv University under Emanuel Krasovsky, then studying with Matti Raekallio (Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Hannover), he took master's studies with Raekallio and Robert McDonald (Juilliard School of Music, NY). He completed his doctoral degree at CUNY’s Graduate Center with Ursula Oppens, with research on the perception and performance of rhythmic complexity. He has studied electronic- and computer music at the Brooklyn College Computer Music Center with Red Wierenga and Douglas Geers. Talgam’s repertoire ranges from Frescobaldi’s toccatas to contemporary music, including many premieres of works by living composers