Tuesday, December 21, 2021

"Kadosh, Kadosh and Cursed" - the Israel Contemporary Players, conductor: Zsolt Nagy, perform new, prize-winning works of Yitzhak Yedid, Keiko Devaux and Yotam Haber


"Kadosh, Kadosh and Cursed", the Israel Contemporary Players' concert on December 12th 2021 at the Jerusalem Music Centre, was a festive event, presenting the Israeli premieres of  works of the 2020 Azrieli Music Prize laureates - Yitzhak Yedid (Azrieli Prize for Jewish Music), Yotam Haber (Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music) and Keiko Devaux (Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music).  All three composers were in attendance. Conducting the Israel Contemporary Players was Zsolt Nagy, the ensemble's principal conductor and artistic advisor as of 1999. Soloist was contralto Noa Frenkel. The world premieres of all three works took place at the Salle Bourgie of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2020, with Lorraine Vaillancourt conducting Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne.  The Azrieli Foundation was established by David Azrieli in 1989 as a philanthropic effort based in both Canada and Israel. Established in 2014, at the initiative of the Azrieli Foundation, the prize aims to discover and promote new music, encouraging ensembles to perform and celebrate current composers.


Born in Jerusalem in 1971, pianist-composer Yitzhak Yedid today makes his home in Perth Australia, teaching at Griffith University, but retains a strong emotional connection to Jerusalem. "Kadosh, Kadosh and Cursed" (2020) speaks of Jerusalem of today, the work "inspired by the Temple Mount in Jerusalem – that holy yet explosive place, sacred to Muslims and Jews alike… a documentary of sorts, about a blessed place (Kadosh Kadosh), which is also a locus of curses, of intra-religious violence. Kadosh, Kadosh and Cursed is therefore a conflicting homage to my hometown, Jerusalem." From its confrontational clamorous opening sounds, the bi-partite piece draws the listener into the multi-dimensional and highly charged tableau, one rich in associations with Arabic music and in music of both Sephardic and Western Jewish communities, an almost visual collage of peoples and cultures, wrought of massive tutti, heavy piano clusters, screeching glissandi, at times, dancelike rhythms, also gentler, homophonic utterances, beguiling solos and soothing, even otherworldly effects. As with many of the composer's other works, its style is both modern and multi-ethnic. The underlying element running throughout this work, however, spells tension and that is Yedid's message as he creates the 14-strong instrumental medium with masterful panache and ingenuity. "Kadosh, Kadosh and Cursed" is experiential, moving and real.


In 2019, the AMP created a new prize - the Azrieli Commission for Canadian Music. The inaugural winner of this award was Keiko Devaux with the work she calls "Arras". Here, Devaux (b.1982, British Columbia), a Montreal-based composer currently pursuing a doctorate in music composition and creation at the Université de Montréal, takes a new approach in her writing: "Arras" is the first piece in which she actively explores her Japanese-Canadian heritage. In an interview with Camille Kiku Belair, the composer explains: “I feared, being a woman composer of half Japanese Canadian heritage, that my profile as a composer would be more focused on my identity rather than my explorations and voice as a composer". "Arras" (the term for an elaborate French tapestry or wall hanging) scored for a 14-instrument ensemble, presents a timbral weave of various textures, creating a work in which a noble, modal, lengthy-phrased melody is surrounded by constantly shifting textures, some strident, others cushioned in lyrical dissonance. A piece mesmerizing in its sonic layering, delicacy and sense of infinitude, "Arras" is a positive work crossing cultural borders, inviting the listener to probe the many timbres created of Devaux' alluring world of instrumental colour and evoked by the mixing of different sections of the chamber orchestra. 


Born in Holland in 1976, Yotam Haber grew up in Israel, Nigeria and the USA. Today, based in Kansas City, Haber is associate professor of Composition at UMKC Conservatory and artistic director emeritus of MATA, the non-profit organization founded by Philip Glass dedicated to commissioning and presenting new works by young composers worldwide. The work designating him as a 2020 laureate of the Azrieli Commission for Jewish Music is "Estro Poetico-Armonico III" for mezzo-soprano, 15 musicians and playback, the of a series of song cycles Haber began in 2012. The work's title derives from Benedetto Marcello’s Psalm settings, a collection composed after the Italian Baroque composer had attended and transcribed liturgical chant melodies of the Venice synagogue. Haber, who has made a study of ethnomusicologist Leo Levi's recordings of the music of Jewish communities in Italy, takes inspiration from the hope that such an ancient oral tradition can withstand time and change. In Haber's words: “Like the Telephone Game {Chinese whispers}, where children whisper messages from one ear to the next, a purely oral tradition will mutate. My own Estro is a sort of Telephone Game, with my own re-hearings and re-casting of the past." To each of the five movements, Haber has paired one of Leo Levi's recordings with an Israeli poem, thus evoking the reality of modern life in Israel in a kind of representation of the country's history, at the same time, shedding light on traditions of Italian Jewish liturgical singing. The result is an emotional three-dimensional fabric consisting of recorded Italian singers, the instrumental ensemble with audio playback and mezzo-soprano Noa Frenkel's singing of the five songs. A versatile artist with an affinity for many musical styles, Frenkel's performance was both powerful, convincing and moving as she traversed vocal registers with ease, colouring gestures with her accessible range of dynamics and emotions, fine diction and clean intonation. The ICP instrumentalists gave vivid expression to Haber's score. Here, as in the two former works, Maestro Zsolt Nagy addressed each filigree musical thread and gesture with the painstaking detail, attention, depth of understanding and dedication for which he is known. 

Yotam Haber,Noa Frenkel,Keiko Devaux,Maestro Zsolt Nagy,Yitzhak Yedid (Yair Yedid) 

1 comment:

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