Friday, February 17, 2017

The Israel Camerata Jerusalem hosts Reinhard Goebel and Raimund Nolte in a concert of works of J.S.Bach and his four composer sons

Maestro Reinhard Goebel (photo:Christina Bleier)

The Israel Camerata Jerusalem hosted conductor Reinhard Goebel (Germany) and bass baritone Raimund Nolte (Germany) in a concert focusing on “The Bach Dynasty”. This writer attended the event in the Henry Crown Auditorium of the Jerusalem Theatre on February 14th, 2017. The program featured works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and those of four of his sons.

The concert opened with music of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784), Bach’s second child (from his first wife, Maria Barbara) and eldest son.  Sinfonia in D-major F.64 is a secular piece which was, however, probably used as the overture to his Pentecost cantata “Dies ist der Tag, da Jesu Leidenskraft” from the time Wilhelm Friedemann was music director and church organist at the Church of Our Lady in Halle as of 1746.  Performed in the standard orchestral setting of the style straddling the Baroque and Classical styles - strings and woodwinds (here, not on period instruments), with the presence of the harpsichord playing thorough bass and supported by the ‘cellos - Goebel gave the work a hearty reading, presenting its many fetching, user-friendly melodies, its warmth and energy and its fine woodwind scoring, especially in the second movement, in which the flutes (Esti Rofé, Avner Geiger) featured in tandem. Much of Wilhelm Friedemann’s oeuvre has been destroyed or lost and more the pity. His bold, original and innovative music deserves a more prominent place on today’s concert platforms.

Then to J.S.Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3, written possibly when Bach was in Weimar, a work showing Bach’s predilection for the Italian concerto and its characteristic fullness of sound. Scored for strings and harpsichord (with bass), the way the work is written leaves the conductor to decide who the soloists really are to be in any one concert and Goebel’s decision may have surprised some members of the audience: with the rapid (at times breakneck) tempi he chose, it seems that all players, ‘cellos included of course, were involved in virtuosic performance, the listener hastily casting his eyes from one instrument or section to another as each the orchestra’s fine players took up the solo challenge and most effectively. It was a performance of breathless excitement. As to the Phrygian half cadence - two chords in all – making up the second movement, Goebel leaves them “au naturel”, bare of the improvised violin flourishes often heard adorning them.

We then heard “Pygmalion”, a cantata for bass and orchestra by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach (1732-1795), J.S.Bach’s fifth son and sixteenth child (one of the six surviving children of the thirteen born to Anna Magdalena Bach) and often referred to as “the Bückeburg Bach”: Friedrich Bach spent his entire professional life as concertmaster of the Schaumburg-Lippe court in Bückeburg. A secular cantata to a text of Berlin poet Carl Wilhelm Ramler, “Pygmalion” represents the monodrama genre of the short-lived 18th century melodrama style. It tells of Pygmalion, a Cypriot sculptor who carves a woman out of ivory and falls in love with her. After making offerings at Aphrodite’s altar, the sculpture becomes alive and the sculptor marries her. Considering Friedrich Bach’s somewhat unfortunate reputation for being a bourgeois personality and a lesser composer than his three very famous brothers, it must be said that this finely crafted music reflects the strongest traits of his great siblings. The music for “Pygmalion” is indeed substantial and most graceful, the ample recitatives presenting the content of Ramler’s text with effectiveness and potency. Raimund Nolte’s voice is warm and bright in all registers, both powerful and compassionate, his singing easeful, articulate and clean. Highlighting key words and the various feelings emerging along the work’s emotional course, his performance, both tender and dramatic, was involving, expressive and convincing as he kept keen eye contact with his audience, his facial expression giving meaning to the text. Played elegantly, instrumental passages threw light on the agenda of each moment. Had a World War II airstrike not wiped out the library housing J.C.F.Bach’s manuscript collection, we might be hearing more of this composer’s works in today’s concert halls.

Johann Christian Bach (1735-1782), the “London” Bach, was J.S.Bach’s eleventh and youngest son.  In 1762, he took up the position of composer to the King’s Theatre in London, for which he wrote a number of operas. He also wrote orchestral-, chamber- and keyboard music and some cantatas. In 1764, he established his fashionable London concert series together with viol player Karl Friedrich Abel. Employed as music master to Queen Charlotte and her children brought him both financial gain and social connections. Symphony opus 6 No.6 was published in 1770. Its fiery Sturm und Drang style is right down Reinhard Goebel’s alley as he led the players through the dazzling, dramatic string tremolandi and sforzati of the opening movement (contrasting them with intimate moments) and into the restless urgency of the third movement. The Andante piu tosto adagio (second movement) for strings alone was poignant and finely tempered.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), J.S.Bach’s fifth child and second son, a composer more-or-less leaning towards the Empfindsamkeit (sensitive) style, was a free spirit in his composing, as he was in life.  With audiences of the time judging a work by its degree of novelty, those of C.P.E. Bach ticked all the boxes! Symphony in D-major Wq.176 (H.651), the final work heard in the Camerata concert, was one of the early symphonies composed some time from 1755 to 1758 in Berlin. Under Goebel’s baton, the concise symphony, complete with the composer’s unconventional signature surprise moments, sudden contrasts and joie-de-vivre, moved seamlessly through the movements with buoyant vigour and vividly coloured orchestral playing, to be gone with the wink of an eye.

Musicologist, violinist and conductor Reinhard Goebel (b.1952) has specialized in early music on period instruments. In 1973, he established Musica Antiqua Köln. He has researched and revived interest in music of Johann David Heinichen, Schmelzer, Biber and members of the Bach family.

For several years, Raimund Nolte was a violist with Musica Antiqua Köln. In his opera career, he has appeared in numerous opera houses in Germany, Austria, Strasbourg and France. As a concert soloist, he works with major conductors, also appearing in leading European festivals. His recordings range from music of Bach to that of Bernstein.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Maestro Christian Lindberg and the Israel Kibbutz Netanya Orchestra invite "The Unexpected Guest" to Concert No.3 of the 2016-2017 season

Maestro Christian Lindberg (photo: Mats Baecker)
Concert No.3 of the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra’s 2016-2017 concert season offered plenty of surprises in the concert titled “The Unexpected Guest”. Christian Lindberg (Sweden), the orchestra’s musical director as of this season, conducted and soloed on trombone. Tuba player Øystein Baadsvik (Norway) was guest soloist. Soloists from the NKO were Guy Sarig (trumpet) and Miki Lam (English horn). This writer attended the concert at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on January 28th 2017.

The program opened with an evocative and generously shaped reading of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Fingal’s Cave” Overture, giving expression to the composer’s musical description of the stunning natural surroundings of the west coast of Scotland which had inspired him on the walking tour he took there at age 20. Hearing the robust, fresh and exhilarating sound offered by the NKO, one tends to forget that this is a chamber orchestra. Firing the listener’s imagination were the sounds suggesting the ebb and flow of the sea, the dramatic crashing of waves on rocks as well as nature’s tranquil mystery, with bassoon, clarinet, viola and ‘cello solos adding beauty to the descriptive piece.

Then to Christian Lindberg’s “Panda in Love” for tuba and orchestra, in which Øystein Baadsvik played the solo role. Composed eight years ago, Lindberg told the audience the story behind the work – a whimsical story, abundant with personal ideas and feelings, but one with a message. Not avant-garde in any way, the work itself is basically tonal and lush in orchestration, giving much prominence to the tuba and dedicated to Baadsvik, one of today’s most prominent tuba players. Baadsvik, playing by heart, gave expression to the work’s lyrical, Romantic melodies, to its intense moments and its humor. Such a work must, of course, include a bear waltz, but there were also some jazzy moments and moments where Baadsvik also sang into the tuba in tandem with blowing it, sometimes playing in dialogue with the percussionist. Baadsvik’s vivid, virtuosic tuba playing was easeful and spontaneous, dashed off with joy and panache.

We then heard the world premiere of Øystein Baadsvik’s “Fnugg Red” tuba, trombone and orchestra. Here is what the composer said in an interview in January of 2017: “’Fnugg Red’ was composed as a variation on a theme called ‘Fnugg’, which I wrote many years ago, (‘Fnugg’ is Norwegian for “snowflake”). And…I don’t know…maybe because it is very light and very different in weight from the tuba…. The music was also inspired by the Australian didgeridoo, and I use the tuba in the way they play the didgeridoo. Another technique in the piece is something called “lip beat”, a technique I myself invented, creating rhythms that do not sound like specific pitch on the instrument; they sound more like a drum or other percussion instruments…a little fun thing I have added to the piece. There is also some inspiration from American fiddle music. Aaron Copland wrote a piece called ‘Rodeo’, in which there are some elements from this American fiddle, bluegrass tradition. Plus, of course, I have incorporated Christian Lindberg’s virtuosic trombone playing into the whole work.” The short work is full of catchy rhythms, different instrumental timbres and plenty of dynamic change. It makes use of a huge variety of tuba-playing techniques, including that of singing into the tuba to produce differential tones (i.e. 3 notes). Featuring the high-quality musicianship and the energetic, positive personalities of both soloists, the message that shines through is that music is fun and is there for pleasure and entertainment. For an encore, Øystein Baadsvik gave a poignant, jazzy tuba solo rendition of the Norwegian song “Trouble”.

One of the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra’s new projects is a competition for composition students of the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. This concert featured “Crows” by silver medalist Ari Rabeno (b.1990, Jerusalem). Lindberg talked of how impressed the jury was of how Rabeno had combined humor and seriousness in his short orchestral piece. Referring to the subject of the fanfare in his program notes, the young composer writes that crows are an inseparable part of city life, mentioning his ambivalent approach to them. “Its spine-chilling screeching and aggressive vindictive character make the crow a most frightening creature. Together with this, something of these traits is bound to also arouse feelings of closeness and identity. I guess their wisdom, cunning and jealous tendencies make crows and humans quite similar…” Rabeno’s succinct and effective orchestral score, giving the double bass plenty of prominence, was descriptive and imaginative, with its many single, pointalistic instrumental utterances and well—depicted, agitated crow squawks. Rabeno’s fine miniature made for good listening!

Another “unexpected guest” to the Israeli concert platform was Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City” for trumpet, English horn and orchestra, the choice of which was explained by Lindberg, who claimed that “this orchestra has something different – personalities and great artists.” Soloists were orchestra members Guy Sarig-trumpet and Miki Lam-English horn. Premiered in 1941, here was another work with a programmatic background: it started as incidental music to a play by Irwin Shaw about an assimilated Jew – Gabriel Mellon – and his younger brother, the tense and troubled young trumpeter – David Melinkoff. The play closed after two preview performances; a year later, Copland rewrote the original music into its present setting. Needless to say, the trumpet solo represents Melinkoff. Copland’s strategy for pairing trumpet with English horn was not only to have contrasting timbres – it was also to give the trumpeter pauses between his solo sections. English horn solos are rare, as are gentle trumpet solos. Sarig, Lam and string orchestra gave poignant and clean expression to this mood piece, with a few gently-infused American and Jewish elements, its spaciousness and introspective atmosphere reflecting the loneliness and alienation of city life in what Copland claimed was a “rather unusual showpiece for the two soloists.”

Returning to Felix Mendelssohn to wind up this decidedly unique program, we heard a work with an interesting story behind it. Only days after composing his Symphony No.8 in 1822, one of 13 written for string orchestra, Mendelssohn rescored it for full orchestra within three days. The work includes a number of clear references to some Mozart works. Christian Lindberg’s direction combined the work’s youthful vivacity with the subtelty Mendelssohn’s writing was already displaying at this young age. Especially beautiful was the NKO’s cantabile performance of the Adagio movement, its dark timbre enhanced by the warm tonings of solo viola and flute utterances. The work signed out with the exuberance of Mendelssohn’s sophisticated fugal writing.

In this concert, Christian Lindberg, with his sense of humor and ebullience, showed the audience that informality and, at times, hi-jinx do not rule out high quality and profound performance. They do, in fact, bring the audience in closer contact with conductor and players. For their final encore, Lindberg and the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra were once again joined by Øystein Baadsvik for a jaunty performance of a Brahms Hungarian Dance.

Øystein Baadsvik (photo:Geir Mogen)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

When did you last hear all 12 of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes played as one work? Hommage an Liszt - Amir Katz performs an all-Liszt recital at the 2017 Eilat Chamber Music Festival

Photo: Maxim Reider
The 2017 Eilat Chamber Music Festival took place from February 1st to 4th. It was hosted by the Dan Eilat Hotel, with concerts taking place in the hotel’s Tarshish Hall and the Big Blue Hall. As befits a festival, the Eilat performances offered some programs that were a step away from mainstream concert fare. One of the festival's most unique and significant concerts was Israeli pianist Amir Katz’ “Hommage an Liszt”, a complete recital of Liszt Études (February 2nd). In his program notes, Katz reminds the listener that these pieces “represent the peak of writing for piano of the Romantic period”.

Katz takes the listener into the world of Franz Liszt's Études with the much-loved “Liebestraum” (Dream of Love) No.3, Liszt’s setting of Ferdinand Freilgrath’s impassioned “O lieb’, so lang du lieben kannst” (Oh love, as long as you can love). Known for its singing melody and delicacy, Amir Katz, chose some daring pedalling, orchestrating the nocturne’s demanding sequences with its network of complex “undercurrents”, its farewell leaving the listener once more in the mystery of his own musings. Then to “Trois études de concert” (1845-1849), suitably referred to by the composer's Paris publisher as “caprices poétiques”. From “Il lamento” (The Lament), in which Katz fires the imagination with the drama inherent in tonal processes, with dissonances melting into harmonic tranquillity, with imposing utterances juxtaposed with fragility, he moves into “La Leggierezza” (Lightness), floating its weightless intricacy, presenting its intensity, his deft, splendidly clean fingerwork taking one back to the gossamer textures of lightness. No less rewarding was Katz' playing of the Impressionistically-hued “Un sospiro” (A Sigh), its huge technical demands (serving as dramatic and theatrical effects in Liszt’s own performances) in no way hampering Katz’ silken melodic lines and shimmering, flowing arpeggios.

Then to the “Zwei Konzertetüden” (1862-1863) composed by Liszt in Rome, with Katz’ playing of “Waldesrauschen” (Forest Murmurs) richly poetic and abundant in nature associations, followed by the playful, imaginative portrayal of “Gnomenreigen” (Dance of the Gnomes), Katz directing the listener’s attention to the piece’s impish, hopping, good-natured whimsy rather than to the fact that this is one of Liszt’s most difficult piano pieces!

The second part of the program was devoted to Franz Liszt’s “Transcendental Études”, a work begun when the composer was in his teens with its final version published in 1852, when the composer was 41. One of the most challenging works of  Romantic piano repertoire, Schumann viewed the 1838 version of it as “studies in storm and dread for, at the most, ten or twelve players in the world.” In his program notes, Katz, offering the audience the rare opportunity of hearing the work in its entirety, writes that, in his opinion, “transcendental” refers to the work’s “philosophical aspect rather than to the technical side.” Opening with the fleeting but uncompromisingly energetic “Preludio”, Katz invites his listeners to join him on a journey of vivid pianistic performance and intense emotions. A kaleidoscope of piano techniques, of the timbres created by textures and registers, of programmatic content (“Mazeppa”, for example) or visual associations, Katz’ warmth of tone and spontaneity, served by his unfaltering technique, gave the pieces an air of freshness, of endless discovery. And beauty of melody is high up on his list of priorities. Creating contrasts between pieces of high drama and massive textures, Katz’ signature tenderness and sensibility was woven into the flowing tranquillity of such pieces as “Paysage” (Landscape), the subdued swirling and strangely dissonant “Feux Follets” (Will-o-the Wisps), or the personal expression of nostalgia and delicacy in the ornamented, old-world sentiments of “Ricordanza” (Remembrance).

The Liszt recital is indeed a major milestone in Amir Katz’ career.  The “12 Études d’éxécution transcendante” constitute a large, probing and all-encompassing slice of life. In presenting them, Katz offers his audience a ravishing array of colours and dynamics in playing that is compelling and frequently stormy but never overblown or opaque. And his interpretation of Liszt is refreshingly devoid of egoism. In Amir Katz’ own words: “Performing the Études as a cycle is a captivating and rigorous autobiographical journey for both listener and performer.”


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Elam Rotem's "Joseph and his Brethren" returns to Israel to be joined once more by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra

The Profesti della Quinta Ensemble (photo:Maxim Reider)

Elam Rotem’s work “Joseph and his Brethren” may have  changed our concept of how we define a work as early Baroque music of the Italian style or as new music. Israeli-born harpsichordist, composer and bass Elam Rotem, with specializations in historical performance practice, in particular basso continuo and improvisation (Schola Cantorum, Basel, Switzerland) and a doctorate from the University of Würzburg (Germany), has taken the story of Joseph in the original Hebrew and set it in the musical style (seconda pratica) that flourished in Italy at the outset of the 17th century in tandem with that of Emilio de’ Cavalieri (1550-1602), a composer whose music Rotem has researched. Since its composition, “Joseph and his Brethren” (2014) has been performed worldwide and been recorded for Pan Classics by Rotem’s Basel-based ensemble Profeti della Quinta of five male singers, now returning to Israel to be hosted once more by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, in the 2016-2017 subscription series. This writer attended the concert on January 25th 2017 at the Jerusalem International YMCA. Joined by JBO founder and musical director David Shemer (organ), violinists Noam Schuss (concertmaster) and Dafna Ravid, Ofira Zakai (theorbo), Chen Goldsobel (violone), also viol players Myrna Herzog and Tal Arbel (also on recorder) as well as the two instrumentalists working permanently with the Profeti della Quinta ensemble - Ori Harmelin (chitarrone) and lirone player Elizabeth Rumsey (Australia) – with Rotem himself at the harpsichord. Returning with some ensemble changes, the Profeti Ensemble today consists of countertenors Doron Schleifer and Ukraine-born Roman Melish, tenors Dan Dunkelblum and Lior Leibovici (Israel/France), with Elam Rotem singing the bass line.

With the indelible memory of two performances of the work heard – indeed, experienced – three years ago, would this be the déjà vu or a new encounter with the work? It was both and no less rewarding than three years ago. Here was one of the most moving and human stories ever told presented in Rotem’s majestic, silken and sensuous musical lines and performed with uncanny precision and superb vocal balance. Countertenor Doron Schleifer, in the role of what would be the Evangelist in a Bach Passion, narrates the story with natural articulacy and emotionally honest gestures, understatement and empathy, however, bringing out the story’s climactic moments in agitated- and more strident timbres. Take, for example, his rich melisma in “And he wept aloud” prior to Joseph’s unheralded, simply-expressed and moving “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt”.

Served well by his substantial, well-grounded tenor voice, Dan Dunkelblum, stepping forward to address the audience, brought out some of the text’s most dramatic speeches, rich in imagery and human emotion. Young countertenor Roman Melish’s attractive singing displayed a richly coloured and fresh timbre. The work’s ensembles exhibited finely crafted blending, shape and precision.  In his vocal solos, Elam Rotem’s unforced bass voice gave imposing reverence to some of the work’s pivotal texts:

“Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him.”

No less significant is Rotem’s fine instrumental writing, with its delicacy, its variety of early dance rhythms, sophisticated counterpoint and transparency.  The sinfonias to each section play an important role in reflecting on what has just transpired and how the plot must move forward. Violinists Noam Schuss and Dafna Ravid’s discerning and informed playing of the upper parts made for fine listening. Altogether, Elam’s instrumentation produced a soundscape inviting the listener to immerse himself in the magic of period instruments. Constructed masterfully, I believe that “Joseph and his Brethren” will stand as one of the most outstanding sacred works of the early 21st century.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Concert at the Austrian Hospice, Jerusalem, in memory of journalist Ari Rath

Ari Rath (photo: Jana Liptáková)

A concert in memory of Ari Rath was held at the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family, Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem on January 21st 2017. At short notice, alto Veronika Dünser (Austria) and pianist Eloïse Bella Kohn (France) put together a varied program of traditional- and classical music. Markus Bugnar, rector of the Austrian Hospice, for whom Ari Rath had been an influential figure, spoke of how important it was to host the concert at the Austrian Hospice. Ms. Petra Klose, director of K und K Wien, spoke of Ari Rath as a charming, generous man, someone who loved music, and the honour that it was for her to organize the concert.

Austrian-Israeli journalist and writer Ari Rath (1925-2017) was born in Vienna, arriving in Mandate Palestine at age 13. He became editor of the Jerusalem Post in 1975 and editor-in-chief in 1979. After leaving the newspaper in 1985, he worked as a freelance writer, taught at the University of Potsdam and was news editor for the on-line journal Partners for Peace. In 2005, he received a Special Prize in the British House of Lords from the International Council for Press and Broadcasting in recognition for his tireless work for rapprochement and peace. Ten years ago, Ari Rath returned to live in Vienna. He died there January 13th   2017 at age 92.

The program opened with three Jewish songs, first a somewhat formal reading of the traditional Hassidic melody “Y’varech’cha” (The Lord bless thee out of Zion). This was followed by a Yiddish song “Hobn mir a Nigendl” (We have a song) in which Veronika Dünser’s sensitive and flexible singing captured the mix of joy and sorrow of this genre. Then to a rich and emotional rendering of David Zehavi’s setting of “Eli, Eli”, a poem written in 1942 by young Hungarian resistance fighter Hannah Senesz:

‘My God, my God
May these never end…
The sand and the sea,
The rustle of the waters,
The lightning of the heavens,
The prayer of man.’

We then heard Eloïse Bella Kohn’s performance of W.A.Mozart’s Piano Sonata No.8 in A-minor K.310, a work written in the early summer of 1778. Mozart, 22 at the time, was in Paris tending to his ailing mother. She would die there on July 3rd. If one considers the scarcity of minor keys in Mozart works (there is only one other piano sonata in the minor) it seems he reserved this mode for his most vehement outpourings. The A-minor sonata must have surely been the product of the composer’s dark mood of that time. Kohn did not “soft-pedal” in the opening Allegro maestoso, its drama and outbursts leaning more towards the frenzied and less to its “maestoso” marking. For the pensive Andante cantabile movement, now in the more tranquil setting of F-major, Kohn’s playing was nuanced and finely crafted, her use of textures adding to the beauty of this mood piece. The Presto takes artist and listener back to the setting of despair, its flashes of optimism swept aside by the sense of urgency pervading the movement.  Although heavy at times, Kohn’s playing of the sonata was as clean as it was brilliant. In a letter to his father, informing him of his mother’s death, Mozart wrote: “I have indeed wept and suffered enough – but what did it avail?” Here was a young contemporary artist connecting with the desperation of the young composer.

In a moodscape no less doleful, Dünser and Kohn performed “Das irdische Leben” (The Earthly Life) one of the 22 songs from Gustav Mahler’s collection “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” (The Youth’s Magic Horn), poems taken from an anthology of over 700 German poems compiled and revised from 1805 to 1808 by two young, early Romantic poets – Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano.  With its archaic naivete, its German heritage and variety of texts, this collection was to become a major inspiration on the composer’s creative work. It would tie in with his love of folk poetry and music, his sense of fate and with his own eventual suffering from personal tragedy.  “Das irdische Leben” tells of a mother watching her child starve to death as he waits for her to finish baking bread. Dünser’s vocal and emotional resources made for a gripping, convincing and real interpretation of the song. Kohn, also delving into the text, highlighted the most subtle details of the generously furnished piano role.

The program concluded with songs from Johannes Brahms’ “Zigeunerlieder” (Gypsy Songs) Op.203. Composed in 1887 for vocal quartet and piano, Brahms published eight of the songs for solo voice and piano in 1889. The work represents an important episode of the composer’s life. He had accompanied Hungarian-born violinist Eduard Hoffmann on a concert tour, learning to play “alla zingara” - in the gypsy style. He had also studied the 1887 anthology of original gypsy melodies compiled by Zoltan Nagy. Brahms, however, used none of the authentic gypsy modes in the songs, although he does address rhythmic concerns of setting Hungarian texts to music, despite that fact that the songs had been translated from the Hungarian into German by Hugo Conrat. In splendid collaboration, Dünser and Kohn present small pictures of gypsy courtship, love and heartbreak, Dünser’s easeful and honeyed singing in all registers and musical- and facial expression revealing moments of passion, sorrow, light-heartedness, joy and disappointment. How poignant and bathed in warmth was “Lieber Gott, Du weiss” (Dear God, you know how often I have regretted) about a young woman’s cherished memory of her lover’s first kiss, to be followed by the carefree joy of “Brauner Bursche führt zum Tanze” (A swarthy lad leads his lovely blue-eyed lass to the dance) as a young man takes his girl to a dance.  In “Röslein dreie in der Reihe” (Three little red roses bloom side by side), opening with its delicate depiction of courtship, Dünser’s facial expression and vocal timbre then reveal an element of doubt as fear of remaining single creeps in. An experienced and attentive accompanist, Kohn collaborates with Dünser all the way, contending splendidly with Brahms’ full-blooded, almost orchestral piano settings.

The event was indeed a fitting tribute to Ari Rath, a man who loved Mozart and song.



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Opera and ballet live from the Royal Opera House (London) at cinemas worldwide, including Israel

Il Trovatore - Royal Opera House (photo:Clive Barda)
As of January 2017, opera- and ballet aficionados in Israel will again be able to watch performances live from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (London) at three venues – Cinema City Glilot, Cinema City in Jerusalem and at the Tikotin Museum (Haifa). These venues will be among the some-1500 cinemas worldwide screening these top-class productions. This season will offer a choice of twelve different performances. The Royal Opera House, one of the world’s most prestigious venues, has been an important cultural centre since the 18th century. With Händel living in London, his operas “Pastor Fido”, “Ariodante”, “Alcina and “Atalanta” were performed at Covent Garden in the 1730s. In 1743, a royal performance of Händel’s “Messiah” took place there for George II, establishing the custom of oratorio performances at Covent Garden every Lent. In 1808, a fire destroyed the theatre. It was rebuilt and opened in 1809, now one of the largest opera houses in Europe. The theatre was destroyed by fire in 1856 once again, re-opening its doors in 1858. An evening at the opera cost the Victorian “men of fashion” about a pound. A verse in Punch defined a pound's value at the time as:

"A pound dear father is the sum
That clears the opera wicket:
Two lemon gloves, one lemon ice,
Libretto and your ticket."

In Israel, however, attending an ROH Live performance will cost a little more - NIS 170 at full price and NIS 130 for pensioners.

The following Royal Opera performances, featuring some of today’s greatest singers and conductors, will be shown this season.  All performances will have English subtitles

31.1,2017: Il Trovatore (Verdi)

9.3.2017: Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)

22.3.2017: Norma (Bellini)

30.3.2017: Madama Butterfly (Puccini)

18.5.2017: Cosi fan Tutte (Mozart)

28.6.2017: Otello (Verdi)


Royal Ballet performances:

8.2.2017: Woolf Works (Wayne McGregor)

28.2.2017: The Sleeping Beauty (Pepita, Ashton, Dowell, Wheeldon)

11.4.2017: Jewels (Balanchine)

7.6.2017: The Dream/Symphonic Variations/Marguerite and Armand (Ashton)

5.7.2017: Anastasia (Kenneth MacMillan)

Without having to contend with inclement London weather or high ticket prices, audiences will enjoy opera and ballet at their best, well filmed and in the comfort of modern cinemas close to home. As a bonus, the camera just might take you down for a glimpse of the orchestra pit or catch an interview with some of today’s greatest performers.

Tel: 03- 6172650

For more details: Miri Shamir; 052-2884981


Il Trovatore - Royal Opera House (photo:Clive Barda)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The 2017 Eilat Chamber Music Festival will offer audiences high quality performance and variety

The 2017 Eilat Chamber Music Festival will take place from February 1st to 4th at the Dan Eilat Hotel. To all intents and purposes, the hotel’s Tarshish Hall and the Big Blue Hall will serve as concert halls for the duration of the festival. At the press conference held at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv on January 12th, those attending were offered a glimpse into the captivating program awaiting festival-goers. Speaking at the meeting, Eilat mayor Mr. Meir Yitzhak Halevi, CEO of the Dan Hotel chain Mr. Raffi Sadeh and festival founder and musical director Mr. Leonid Rozenberg made mention of developments regarding the festival, in the city of Eilat and of the contribution the Dan Hotels make to the success of the Eilat Chamber Music Festival. Ms. Hayuta Dvir, known to many as a presenter on Israeli radio, especially of the Monday afternoon Etnachta concert series at the Jerusalem Theatre, spoke of the warm cooperation between all who make the festival a reality and of the value of its educational programs: from January 29th to February 4th, serious young string players, pianists and trumpeters will be studying with some of the festival artists, a stepping-stone to furthering their musicianship and technical skills. In another educational program – the Vienna Tel Aviv Vocal Connection – sopranos Sylvia Greenberg (Vienna Conservatory, Munich Hochschule) and Rosemarie Danziger (Cornell University, Mannheim Faculty) and pianist David Aronson (assistant conductor Vienna State Opera, Vienna Conservatory) will coach young singers who are aiming for a professional career.

An extra dimension to this year’s Eilat Chamber Music Festival will be an exhibition of artwork by Nevo Afek, an almost-blind, high-functioning autistic young man. Merav Afek, Nevo’s mother spoke of the artistic talent Nevo has displayed and of the young artist’s aim - to inspire people with his artworks.

With the rich choice of splendid concerts, festival-goers are going to have a hard time choosing which to attend…or perhaps which not! Pianist and conductor David Greilsammer will be back with his orchestra – the Geneva Camerata – this year to be joined by the bold, versatile Russian-born violinist Viktoria Mullova. Greilsammer and the Geneva Camerata will present the Israeli premiere of Swiss composer Martin Jaggi’s “Uruk”. From France, the young, prize-winning Van Kuijk Quartet will perform French music and Schubert and will introduce the audience to Japanese composer Akira Nishimura’s string quartet “Pulses of Light”, then to be joined by Israeli pianist Amir Katz to perform César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F-minor. A treat in store for Baroque aficionados will be the Gabrieli Consort & Players, with their musical director and conductor Paul McCreesh; British soprano Gillian Webster will solo with them in Händel’s magnificent Italian cantata “Donna, che in ciel di tanta luce splendi”, written to celebrate the deliverance of Rome from the earthquake of 1703. And with the festival moving “outside the box” for Concert No.19, the Geneva Camerata will be joined by French jazz pianist Jacky Terrasson in a concert combining classical works, jazz and Israeli composer Jonathan Keren’s Variations on Gershwin’s “I Got Plenty of Nuttin”.

No new face to the Eilat Chamber Music Festival, pianist Amir Katz, in a daring and challenging program, will take the listener with him into the beauty and intricacies of Liszt’s music. 28-year-old Italian pianist Federico Colli will perform works of Domenico Scarlatti and Beethoven and, on his first Israeli visit, 15-year-old Alexander Malofeev from Russia will give a recital of mainstream works, with some piano repertoire discoveries.

Chamber music concerts will feature such world-renowned artists as violinists Marianna Vasileva (Israel/Russia) and Grigory Kalinovsky (USA), violist Mikhail Bereznitsky (Russia/Montenegro), ‘cellists Hillel Zori (Israel) and Martti Rousi (Finland) pianists Rena Shereshevskaya (Russia) and David Aronson (USA). 

Festival audiences will welcome back Canadian jazz trumpeter Jens Lindemann; in two exhilarating concerts, he will be performing with Israeli- and overseas jazz artists: keyboard player Kristian Alexandrov (Bulgaria/Canada), bassist Jeremy Coates (Canada), Israeli percussionist Gilad Dobrecki and pianist Guy Mintus, an Israeli boundary-crossing pianist, composer and educator living in New York.

And to an upbeat, uniquely Israeli and entertaining event: in a concert of new arrangements of several of his songs, Israeli songwriter Alon Olearchik (voice, piano, guitar) will be joined by violinist Yulia Klein, violist Daniel Tanchelson and Yoed Nir (‘cello).  Olearchik’s natural and communicative manner and humour make it a pleasure (and a must) to follow every word of his lyrics, to smile and to remember with nostalgia what was…or what might have been.

And for the children and us adults who treasure the memory of childhood, clown and actor Fyodor Makarov will present much fun and information in “SchMozart” (Concert No.9). Singers of the Vienna-Tel Aviv Vocal Connection, sopranos Avigail Gurtler Har-Tuv and Roxana Mihai, baritone Robson Bueno Tavared and instrumentalists will provide plenty of fine music by W.A.Mozart.