Between May 14 and 19, one of the most exciting annual events of the Tel Aviv music stage, the Felicja Blumental International Music Festival, will take place at the city’s Museum of Art, for the 14th time now.

The festival was founded by soprano Annette Celine to commemorate her late mother, outstanding pianist Felicja Blumental.

Born in Warsaw in 1908, Blumental graduated from the National Conservatory and luckily took refuge in France at the outset of World War II. She later went to Brazil and performed extensively in Latin America. After the war, she returned to Europe, where her concerts were a great success. Her repertoire was vast and far from traditional. Composers Heitor Villa- Lobos, Krzysztof Penderecki and Witold Lutoslawski dedicated their pieces to her. Blumental, who is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most important pianists, died in Tel Aviv in 1991.

Eight years later, Celine inaugurated the festival in her name. “Playing music is the best way to keep the memory of my mother alive,” says Celine, who is the artistic director of the festival and works in close cooperation with the event’s executive director, Avigail Arnheim.

Speaking over the phone on the eve of the festival, Arnheim explains that over the years the concept of the festival has developed further.

“Naturally, piano music – especially rarely performed pieces – were initially at the heart of our programs, and we still make it a point to play piano music that is less familiar to the public. But the program now features Baroque music, as well as being coupled with a week of classical guitar under the direction of Yehuda Schreier. They both make the programs quite special,” she says.

On the whole, the festival, which has become a meeting point between cultures and arts, has a lot to offer – Early music, flamenco, Gypsy, Brazilian, classical, Jewish music, theater, performances for the whole family and more. It will host guests from Brazil, Italy, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Canada, as well as renowned Israeli musicians.

The festival always offers its stage to young, aspiring Israeli musicians. This year the festival will even start with a debut concert of the Quinta Vahetzi a cappella ensemble, which will perform works by Bach, Sting, Argov and Gronich.

“We heard the ensemble performing at the Felicja Blumental Music Center on Bialik Street,” says Arnheim, “and were so impressed that we felt it was a must to introduce them to the major audience.”

In other programs, chamber musicians from the Jerusalem Music Center – the greenhouse for local talent – and young guitar players will showcase their art.

The true opening of the festival is the gala evening of the Ensemble Auser Musici from Italy, with opera star mezzo-soprano Marina De Liso. Their Sweet Baroque and Stormy Times program includes music by Scarlatti, Gasparini, Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi.

Camer-proza is a very special program that puts the magic of words and music together. At this concert, the renowned Jerusalem Trio will meet artist Nathan Slor, who will read short essays and poetry by Nathan Alterman and Eli Mohar while the trio performs a selection of movements from piano trios by Ravel, Mendelssohn, Haydn, Brahms, Shostakovich and Schumann.

“What do they have in common?” says Arnheim. “Nowadays, chamber music in Tel Aviv is flourishing, while Alterman and Mohar are very Tel Avivian authors.”

In the Flamenco Autentico evening with renowned vocalist and guitarist Oscar Herrero, percussionist Miguel Riass (both from Spain) and Israeli singer Natali Meidan, the audience will take captivating journey through time that traces the evolution of the genre, starting in the mid-18th century with primitive flamenco and pre-flamenco songs.

As an example of rarely performed piano music, Arnheim cites a piano concerto by Beethoven’s student Ferdinand Ries, performed by Ilan Levin with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra under Yishai Steckler. On the whole, the concert is described as a tribute to Massenet. Two fine Israeli sopranos – Alla Vasilevitsky and Shimrit Carmi – will perform arias by Massenet and his contemporaries.

And all this is just a small part of the festival’s offerings.

Other musical fare includes Brazilian Sounds with vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Guinga from Brazil and the fiery Chorole ensemble from Israel; a short and touching concert of Brazilian songs performed by Celine and guitarist Yehuda Schryer; guitarists Dietmar Kres from Austria and Alvaro Pierri from Uruguay; an intriguing salsa Baroque program presented by Ensemble Caprice together with Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer, which will perform music of Latin America and Spain of the 17th and 18th century. And there will be documentaries about Wanda Landowska, Vladimir Horowitz and Bronislav Huberman presented by Yossi Schiffmann, as well as programs for the entire family, workshops and more.

“I love this festival,” confides Arnheim. “There are many concerts that I would really like to attend, not as one who is involved in the event but simply as a music lover. The programs are fresh, many names are new, the atmosphere is natural – you don’t have to put on your fanciest clothes if you don’t want to – and you will meet people who come to enjoy the music and who will be glad to discuss it after the concert.

Last but not least, the ticket prices are reasonable, and there are many events that are free.”

For reservations: (03) 620-1185, For more details: www.blumentalfestival.com

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