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The second International Eilat Chamber Music Festival, which took place at the Eilat theater between February 28 and March 3, featured an impressive roster of international and Israeli musicians. Four intense days of music making, including 14 concerts and 66 musicians, provided listeners with top quality performances.
Any cultural capital of the world would have been happy to embrace such a variety of programs. Accolades must go to Leonid Rosenberg, the initiator and artistic director of the festival, who chose the performers himself.
The Freiburger Barockorchester, playing on historical instruments with precision and dedication, showcased an amazing sound quality. Solos by orchestra leader violinist Gottfried von der Goltz and oboe player Katharina Arfke were impressive, and soprano Ruth Ziesak's "Wedding Cantata" by J.S. Bach emanated a soft joie de vivre.
The Jerusalem Trio, reinforced by violist Amihai Gross, offered two programs and played with confidence and energy.
Trumpet player Sergey Nakariakov, accompanied by his sister pianist Vera Ochotnikova-Nakariakov, showcased marvels of virtuosity. He played effortlessly, proving once more why he is known as the Paganini of trumpet.
Pianist Nikolai Demidenko, in his long-awaited comeback, presented a captivating rendition of various pieces by Frederic Chopin, which the listeners will long remember. In the second program Demidenko appeared with another Russian musician who also lives in London, the fabulous cellist Leonid Gorokhov. This concert was one of the festival's highlights - Gorokhov is a virtuoso player, who combines technical precision with warm and dramatic sound.
The Red Priest, a baroque quartet from England, was another story. Each of its four performers is a specialist in early music. Their knowledge and command of their instruments is immense. You can close your eyes and enjoy immaculate renditions of Henry Purcell, J.C. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi (the ensemble owes its name to this red-headed composer) and others. But this listener might have missed some of its subtler messages because the quartet members intersperse the concert with gems of English humor.
Concert of Konzertgebouw Chamber Orchestra from Amsterdam, led by Shlomo Mintz, crowned the festival. Performing "Serenade for Strings," by Tchaikovsky, the orchestra exhibited a beautiful and flexible chamber sound. After intermission, Mintz played "Concerto # 4" by Mozart and then, switching to viola, offered a top-notch rendition of "Sinfonia Concertante" by the same composer together with violinist Hagai Shaham.
Marketing, both local and nationwide, seems to be the only problem of this young festival. The artists, who typically perform for sold-out houses all over the world, this time found themselves in a partially empty hall.