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. 


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