The Israel Sinfonietta joined forces with the Ashdod Symphony Orchestra for a gala finale to its 39th Season at the Beersheba Arts Complex.

Opening with a programmatic tone poem, “Contemplation” by Israeli composer Michael Wolpe – his vision is a quest for identity in Eretz Yisrael today as dream or reality, hope or despair. Its three moods alternate: longing and nostalgia fluctuate and interact with optimistic darbukadebka rhythms and stormy, clustered passages.

Framed by a lyric, offstage trumpet solo, its melody opens on a hopeful sigh and closes on a mourning sob. In between, the three moods interweave, as the work builds to a searing climax in a series of lyric developments, before receding.

The style follows in the footsteps of Israel’s pioneering Mediterranean composers but with Wolpe’s own harmonic and melodic touch and awareness of contemporary techniques and innovations.

Three well-known Schubert songs: Du Bist die Ruh (Ruckert), An die Musik (von Schober), and Grechen am Spinnrade (Goethe), orchestrated by Max Reger (1873-1916) followed.

They featured graceful young Israel soprano Daniella Lugassy. Her stylish interpretations, crystalline cantilena, and lovely stage appearance made an impression.

Lugassy appeared as soloist in the last movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, whose icy images of sleigh bells and snow take place in heaven, where “Saint Peter oversees angels baking bread... and Saint Ursula shakes with laughter,” and so forth.

The centerpiece of the evening, it was the first time this complicated Mahlerian work has ever been played in Beersheba. Conductor Doron Solomon flowed with its shifting tempi and intricately interweaving textures and dynamic and managed to draw a sheen from his newly combined forces and a standing ovation from the audience.

The other movements of the symphony, elaborations on the closing song, take place on earth. Its Viennese core is sehr gemachtlich (very comfortable) and filled with puns, jokes, fairytale atmospheres, hymns and wonderful violin solos by concertmaster Yaron Prensky.

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