The world premiere of an Israeli work in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s recent concert was Michael Wolpe’s symphonic poem Releasing of Vows.

The work is, above all, a succession of the composer’s changing moods. These are expressed by skilfully manipulated changing, often contrasting, instrumental tone colors.

Sometimes – not always – they are linked with identifiable historic music styles, periods and/or celebrities, such as Mendelssohn’s Romanticism, the once-upon-a-time German cabaret idiom, military marches, Stefan Zweig’s World of Yesterday, grand-uncle Stefan Wolpe’s aggressive antiquated modernism, evoking associations among those familiar with the related historic events and personalities.

Though diversity reigns, what remains mystifying is the work’s title. When all is said and played, it is left to the listener’s fertile imagination what the vows are and what the release is.

The soloist of Schumann’s Cello Concerto, Misha Maisky, virtually sang the work on his instrument with a warm, sonorous sound. He also released rhythmic energies that conveyed the composer’s characteristic nervosity, and sometimes whispered intimate sounds that expressed his extreme introversion.

The concert’s sensation was conductor Omer Wellber. He proved that an opera conductor can lead a symphony orchestra, in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, emphasizing its dramatic elements as though it were an operatic event. Not only the work’s bombastic episodes were rendered impressively. Particularly ingratiating were its calm passages in the Largo movement where he created a gripping, almost inaudible pianissimo that seemed to be closer to the composer’s heart than the work’s boisterous movements. One hopes to enjoy this outstanding conductor more frequently in the IPO’s concerts.

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