The Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra, established more than 20 years ago following the massive influx of immigrant musicians from the former USSR, has found its niche in the crowded Israeli classical music scene. Every season it offers its devoted audiences intriguing, high-quality programs. One of its major assets is its artistic director, successful young Israeli maestro Omer Meir Wellber (31) who, thanks to his professional connections in Europe, invites his musical friends to perform – renowned instrumentalists, conductors and soloists. Another asset, Orit Fogel Shafran, who combines love of music with a clear business mind, has been serving as the orchestra’s CEO since day one.
The 2013-14 season offers varied programs that feature symphonies, concertos, mini-opera productions and more. Among the soloists are old friends of the orchestra, such as Italian-based Russian-born violinist cum conductor Sergej Krylov, as well as new ones, such as 16-year old American violinist Ariel Horowitz, a prodigy child and student of Itzhak Perlman. Among other features are conductor Yaron Gottfried with his Classic Meets Jazz program; multi-talented conductor/pianist/vocalist David Sebba with Israeli classics in operatic arrangements at the End of the Year concert, as well as Mozart’s Cosi fan' tutte, presented by Opera Studio soloists; premieres of pieces by Israeli and European composers; and classics by Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Chopin, Mozart and more.
“Fate,” the opening concert, which will take place in October, is a fine example of creative programming, which combines the local and the worldly, the new and the traditional. Conducted by Omer Wellber, the concert features the world premiere of Jewish Oratorio based on poems by Miron Izakson (Pictured), and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The concerts will be preceded by open discussions led by local intellectuals.
Izakson, who belongs to one this country’s founding families, studied law and philosophy but has dedicated his life to literature. Now in his late 50s, he recalls, “In my early days, I was the only religious one among the Gymnasia Herzliya kids. For me, it is about keeping traditions, about mitzvot rather than about the religion,” he stresses. “I started writing at 12, and since then I live reality through literature. For me, this is most serious. Many musicians were inspired by my poetry, and I do not take it for granted. It was Uzi Hitman, a most charming man, who first wrote music based on my poems because one of them – ‘He studies Torah’ – especially spoke to him, since this was the story of his father,” he says.
“Yoni Rechter and Eviatar Banai performed my songs, then came others, such as double bass classical and jazz player and singer Eli Magen,” he continues. “There was also a disk, created \with composer Oded Zehavi. And then it was suggested that I meet musician Micha Shitrit, and there was immediate chemistry between us. Micha is going through a very interesting period of his life: I should have called it maturation.
We have long discussions on the most basic questions of human existence. Micha decided to add composer/conductor Ronen Shapira to our circle to work on our new disk together. He is a lovely, creative and sort of crazy person – in the positive sense of the word because I believe I am a bit crazy, too.”
As soon as the three started working at the recording studio, it became obvious to Shapira that they should see it as an orchestral piece and not a selection of songs.
The next stop was the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra.
“Orit Fogel grasped the idea immediately, and she loved it.
Together with Omer Wellber, they embraced the idea, and Ronen started writing the symphonic piece. We called it Jewish Oratorio, and it is in a way our response to Christian oratorios. It is built mostly around my old poem, which is called “The Attraction of the Edge.” I think that modern – or post-modern – man is attracted to the edges in our life. He enjoys playing with them, as if approaching the very edge of a cliff to look down and see what is in the abyss – but hoping not to fall into it. Personally, I am one of that kind. I am attracted to the edges, but I just want to touch and not to fall, while others really want to get crazy and crash.”
The ‘Fate’ concerts will take place on October 16, 21 and 23. Micha Shitrit and the Moran Singers Ensemble will participate, and Miron Izakson will read his poems. Omer Wellber will conduct. For more details and reservations: www.symphonette.co.il
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