Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City

Music Festivals in Israel: Solace for the troubled
By Irving Spitz

Israel’s musical life, always strong, is flourishing, in spite of its economic and political troubles. One reason is that the country has received a tremendous boost in the last two decades by the influx of a large number of competent musicians from the former Soviet Union. Partly as a result of the availability of this new talent, a number of new orchestras have been set up and older established institutions have been strengthened. All of these orchestras give regular subscription concerts; in addition, Israel hosts several international music festivals.

First and foremost is the annual Israel Festival. The most memorable event at the most recent festival was the appearance of soprano Kiri te Kanawa, on her first visit to Israel. Her program comprised arias by Handel and Mozart as well as those from the French and Italian repertory. At 56, she is nearing the end of an illustrious career, but remarkably her voice still retains all the brilliance of the high notes although some of the lower register has gone. She attained heavenly heights in her rendering of Handel’s Piangero la sorte mia (I Shall Weep For My Fate) from his Giulio Cesare. She concluded with an encore, her show stopper, O Mio Babbino Caro (Oh My Beloved Father) from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. She was accompanied by the Symphony Orchestra of Rishon Letzion under conductor Asher Fisch, who successfully captured the subtle nuances of the scores in the diverse repertory. Her rapport with conductor, orchestra and audience was extraordinary; this was a concert to remember and cherish.

An equally impressive festival event was a performance of Verdi’s penultimate opera, Otello by the Israel Opera, which was staged at the spectacular Roman amphitheatre in Caesaria. Like many other outdoor venues, this has the usual drawbacks with uncomfortable seating and problematic acoustics, compounded in this case by the gentle lapping of the waves and the occasional drone of an overflying aircraft. The part of Otello was taken by tenor Gaby Sadeh. He was most convincing and conveyed the requisite arrogance, pride, jealousy and pathos characteristic of the role. Iago, sung by Boaz Senator, was effective but despite amplification, his voice was frequently drowned out. Desdemona was sung by Larissa Tetuev, a light soprano. She displayed the required air of innocence, as a balance between the evil Iago and the complex Otello, her willow song and Ave Maria being especially poignant. Alexander Lisiyansky’s sets were dramatic and grandiose, possibly even a bit overwhelming, and Avi-Yona Bueno’s lighting was particularly effective. The staging also featured a ballet scene at the arrival of the Venetian ambassador at the conclusion of Act 3. Not often included in regular performances, this was well suited to an outdoor venue, contributing to a performance which would be a credit to any international festival.

An outstanding Israeli musical tradition is the annual chamber music series established by the renowned pianist Elena Bashkirova, wife of Daniel Barenboim. Many prominent international soloists and recognized chamber musicians participate, contributing their talents on a voluntary basis. The festival is currently in its fourth year. Most concerts in this series are given at the Jerusalem Khan, an old Turkish building with an intimate theatre well suited to chamber music. The program is built around a theme, which on this occasion was transcriptions and transformations of well-known pieces by their composers or by others.

The festival usually lasts about 9 days and amongst the most memorable highlights was the appearance of Emmanuel Palud, the former principal flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra who gave a masterful account of Debussy’s Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune and his Serene for flute. He was joined by the outstanding solo oboist, Francois Leleux, in duos by WF Bach and Mozart. Lelaux himself gave an inspiring performance of Teleman’s fantasy for oboe. Matthias Glander, principal clarinetist from the Staatskaplle, joined pianist Elena Bashkirova and the exceptional cellist Boris Pergamenschikow in an exciting performance of Beethoven’s own arrangement of his Septet Op 20 for trio. There was also an interesting performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations transcribed for string trio by violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, who was joined by violist Gerard Causse and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras in this exciting, unusual rendition. Other prominent performers included violinists Nikolaj Znaider and Renaud Capucon. They joined violist Michael Tree, a founding member of the Guarneri Quartet, and cellists Boris Pergamenschikow and Sennu Laine, the principal of the Staatskapelle, in an unforgettable performance of Schubert’s profoundly eloquent string quartet in C major, D. 956. This was specially added to the program and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. There could be no more memorable tribute than the soaring harmony, epitomizing despair, melancholy, but also hope, that characterize the adagio movement of this great masterpiece.

Another annual musical festival is a Liturgical series hosted by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra in which local and international soloists and choir groups participate. This year the choral groups were the Budapest Academic Choral Society and the local Philharmonia Singers. I heard an excellent rendition of Brahms’ Deutche Requiem under conductor Lawrence Forster, musical adviser of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, with Israeli soprano Michal Shamir and American bass-baritone Thomas Carson. Carson was joined by Italian soprano Fiorella Burato, Israeli mezzo Susanna Poretsky and Italian tenor Vicente Ombueno in a dramatic, taut performance of Verdi’s requiem, which was led by Dan Ettinger, conductor in residence of the Israel New Opera. He led a lively and impressive performance that managed to coax the maximum from orchestra, choirs and soloists, all contributing to a memorable account of the work. Soloist and choirs all acquitted themselves admirably but the highest accolades must be given to the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, whose playing has improved dramatically over the last few years.

Because of the current unrest, Israel is going through a major crisis. There are few tourists, hotels are all but empty, and restaurants are closing. The buoyant optimism seen only 18 months ago has dissipated; bringing in its wake sadness and failed aspirations. Nevertheless, despite or possibly because of this, the rich music life of the country continues. Israelis require some antidote to turn them away from the grim news on radio and TV.#


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.