Comment: Come on down

Eilat's International Chamber Music Festival, this year in its fifth edition, is a top quality music event - so why are the halls half full?

February 21, 2010 22:53
2 minute read.
Cellist Mischa Maisky performs in Eilat.

mischa maisky 311. (photo credit: Maxim Reider)

Every time I preview, attend and later review the Eilat International Chamber Music Festival – this year is the fifth time – I want to shout out loud: “People, come!” This is a top quality music event, of the kind that every musical capital of the world would be proud to host; not music as a weekend recreational event, in between sunbathing and duty-free shopping, but music as a superior human activity. So why are the halls half (or at best two thirds) full, and why don’t our music loving compatriots arrive in flocks? Everybody wants it to happen – the Eilat municipality, among other bodies, supports the event – but people don’t come.

One possible explanation is that for concert goers the heavy artillery of January’s Red Sea Festival and Classicameri is enough, especially with another chamber music festival taking place in Jerusalem in September. But this is not the case, because the Chamber Music Festival is utterly unique in terms of both programming and atmosphere. And price-wise, it is not aimed at the “top ten” audience.

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The festival, which started as a three-day-long event, now spans over two intensive weekends of concerts and master classes. Since 2009, it is co-directed by Leonid Rosenberg and Pavel Vernikov from the Vienna Conservatory, with the latter contributing not only his experience but also his vast international connections, which allow him to fly in top artists. Obviously, the festival cannot afford high fees to musicians, and many come out of friendship and eagerness to contribute to the local music life.

FOR THOSE who did turn out, it was a young Georgian, Khatia Buniatishvili, who outshone the stellar roster of performers and won the audience’s hearts with the rich sound of her piano and her utmost musicality. Veteran pianists Pavel Gililov from Germany and Konstantin Bogino of France, as well as Israeli Itamar Golan in a now-rare home appearance, shared with the devoted audience their treasures of sound and soul.

Renowned cellist Mischa Maisky also appeared in several programs, but most moving was probably the one he shared with his daughter, pianist Lily Maisky. The tender family connection was audible in the dialogue of Debussy’s Sonata in D Minor.

Another family program was offered by pianist Konstantin Bogino and his soprano wife Miomira Vitas, who performed a selection of Russian art songs, easily going from dramatic to hilarious. Acclaimed Israeli duo PercaDu managed, as usual, to sing on their percussion instruments, playing contemporary and classic pieces alone or with pianist Amit Dolberg, or accompanying writer Amos Oz, who read fragments from his novels. Andres Mustonen returned from Estonia with his Hortus Musicus ensemble. Truthfully we can say that we don’t really know what the Middle Ages or the Renaissance looked like, but there is such a stamp of sincerity and authenticity in Hortus Musicus’ music, that it’s impossible not to believe them.

Within only two days of rehearsals, the darling of the Israeli audience, Maestro George Pehlivanian, managed to turn a group of students into an orchestra that produces warm, rich and solid sound, following the clear movements of his small elegant hands. The dramatic Israeli premiere of Irini, Essalam, Shalom, by Fabio Vacchi, performed by the orchestra with actor Moni Ovadia and violinist Pavel Vernikov, concluded the first third of the festival.

The festival lasts through February 27. For detailed program see

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