While there are some who turn their noses up at the idea of tooting one’s own horn, others adhere to the “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” ethos. For the past 16 years, the Israeli Music Festival has provided a platform for some of our leading contemporary composers to strut their stuff, in addition to works by local artists of the past.
As always, the festival program is chock-full of fascinating works, styles and confluences. One of the more emotive items is a performance of The Jubilee opera by Abel Ehrlich, who died 10 years ago. The opera, based on an Anton Chekhov play of the same name, will be performed at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art by the Israel Contemporary Players and the vocalists of the Opera Kamera group. It will be conducted by Yuval Tzoran and directed by the composer’s son, Danny Ehrlich.
From its outset, the festival has offered a wide range of thought-provoking and inspiring creations.
For example, the Electroacoustic program, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Recanati Hall of the Tel Aviv Museum, promises to keep the audience riveted. The concert features four works or, more precisely, three works and two variations of the same composition. The latter is Yosef Tal’s Concerto No. 6 for Piano and Magnetic Tape, performed in its original form and a rendition with added electronics. The latter was woven into the original score by pianist-composer Amos Elkana, who will join forces with Meitar Ensemble members, artistic director and pianist Amit Dolberg and flutist Roy Amotz. The concert also includes Convergence for alto flute and electronics by 24-year-old Haifa-born Ofer Peltz, as well as the premiere of an untitled work by Deganit Elyakim for flute, piano and electronics.
The Meitar Ensemble is, in its own words, “the most prominent contemporary music group operating in Israel.” The group runs educational programs that aim to nurture the development of young musicians “who share a love of new music, to give them the tools and the stage for the performance of contemporary, important and exciting repertory of composers from all over the world.” The same goes for the members of the ensemble, who maintain a packed year-round recording and performance schedule here and around the globe.
For 35-year-old Dolberg, the works in the festival repertoire provide ideal vehicles for expressing his artistic mind-set.
“I come from a classical background but also from a modern, contemporary world, which is the world of the Meitar Ensemble,” he says.
Dolberg says he is delighted to be involved in performing Elkana’s reading of Tal’s score and thinks the Elkana-Tal synergy is a natural fit.
“Amos is a composer who also engages in electroacoustic music. The original work was written in 1970, and Yosef Tal created all the sounds in his own laboratory on all sorts of synthesizers. I know that Amos was in touch with Yosef Tal, and they knew each other’s music.”
Dolberg says the ensemble’s upcoming Israeli Music Festival concert was an ideal opportunity to give the Tal score something of a more contemporary working.
“I knew that the afternoon concert would probably attract a lot of young people, including students, and I asked him to write a new version of the concerto. I will perform the original work with magnetic tape and, following that, I will play the concerto a second time but with the magnetic tape replaced by electronics performed live. We have been working on it for a few weeks now, and the idea is to show that Tal’s music is entirely relevant to the here and now and that we can use electronic and mechanical means to perform the material today, too.”
Mind you, it’s not as if Dolberg has a problem with the 1970 score.
“I recently recorded the work,” says the pianist.
“It’s an amazing work that was written shortly after the Six Day War, when everyone was still traumatized by the war. There are things in the Tal work that sound like planes and bombs. The magnetic tape part starts out with a gradually rising pitch, like a war siren. The tape does not emit orchestral sounds. You hear all sorts of sampled electronic sounds, and that makes it all so special. It was an envelope-pushing development at the time.
Yosef Tal built the first sound laboratory of its kind in Israel, and although he wasn’t the first person in the world to do this sort of thing in music, he had his own unique approach.”
Of course, in technological terms, the world has come a long way since Tal’s time.
“If Tal had at his disposal all the computer equipment and software that’s around today, I am sure he would have sweated less to produce the sounds he achieved,” says Dolberg. “But his work is truly amazing, and I think it stands the test of time.”
There is an abundance of nuggets strewn throughout the varied festival program, including Arabic-flavored works, material that tends towards the Baroque style, and a big band swing jazz and gospel slot. Add to that several documentary films about Israeli composers, a music-inspired art exhibition and an art-inspired musical composition – both by Hagar Kadima – and you get a pretty well-rounded offering over the four days.Entry to all concerts is free.
The Feast of Israeli Music takes place between September 8 – 11. Beer Sheva Conservatory September 8 (08- 6266422) / Tel Aviv Museum of Art 9.09 (03-6961593) / Rappoport Hall in Haifa 10.09 (03-6961593) / Jerusalem Theatre 11.09 (02- 5605755). For more info: www.habama.co.il
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