The Eilat Chamber Music Festival, which takes place this year between March
17-26, is a sheer celebration for every true music lover.
features performances by the world’s top classical artists, many of them making
their Israeli debut in Eilat, as well as master classes for music students from
Israel and around the world, led by prominent teachers and artists.
hard to believe that this beautiful festival, now avidly supported by a number
of foundations in Israel and abroad, started out just six years ago as a modest
weekend event with an almost family atmosphere.
“It probably sounds
surprising,” says festival founder and artistic director Leonid Rozenberg, “but
the major aim of the festival was an educational one. Granted, there are several
classical music festivals in Eilat, but they are aimed at hotel clients, not
Eilat residents. Classical music in Eilat is rather scarce and is limited mainly
to the concerts of the local conservatory,” says Rozenberg, who is a violinist,
music organizer and director of the Eilat Conservatory.
explains that “the geography dictates the artistic guidelines of the festival.
This means that the festival must be attractive to music lovers from all over
Israel and maybe from abroad – because people cross international borders to
attend festivals in Salzburg, Prague and St. Petersburg, so why not Eilat?” He
describes the musical life in Israel in general as rather conservative. “Year
after year the same artists – excellent artists, I agree – return to our stages.
It takes a long time to see new and fresh names appearing in Israel.”
this is what has defined Rozenberg’s approach to the programming. “I needed to
give people from central Israel a good reason to come to the country’s
southernmost city. For me, novelty and uncompromising music quality are the name
of the game.”
Rozenberg says that the Verbier Festival in Switzerland was
his role model. “The Verbier Festival lasts about three weeks and offers its
stage to both established outstanding artists and young musicians at the start
of their international career. And there also are master classes.”
adds that daring music projects are also rare in Israel. “This is not surprising
because they are very expensive. But festivals by their nature provide a
framework for such experiments. Since our festival is a subsidized event, it is
only fair that the money goes toward bringing expensive ensembles, and not into
the organizers’ pockets.”
As an example, he recalls the Israeli premieres
of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and La Venexiana. The latter ensemble was
recognized as the world’s best Baroque ensemble precisely the year that it
appeared in Eilat. “And this time it will be the Gabrielli Consort with Paul
McReesh. This year they will tour Europe with their premiere performance of
Bach’s St. John’s Passion, and their first concert will be in
Among the hot names the festival will host this year are violists
Tatjana Masurenko and Maxim Rysanov, who will appear with cellist Kristine
Blaumane and pianist Jacob Katsnelson; violinist Chloe Hanslip (“according to
Gramophone magazine, she is one of the world’s five best violinists,” says
Rozenberg); prominent cellist and musicologist Alexander Ivashkin (“suffice it
to say that Alfred Schnittke dedicated one of his two cello concerti to him –
the other one to Rostropovich”); cellist Pieter Wispelwey with his musical
partner pianist Paolo Giacometti; several excellent pianists, such as Jacob
Bogaart, Oxana Yablonskaya and Dejan Lazic (“who debuted in Eilat a few years
ago”); British clarinetist Antony Pay; conductors Paul McCreesh, Gisele Ben-Dor;
and Eduard Schmieder with his iPalpiti Youth Orchestra, which performed at the
festival opening six years ago. Also on the roster are singers Anna la Fontaine,
Elisabeth von Magnus, Mhairi Lawson, Nicholas Mulroy, as well as flamenco dancer
Maria Juncal with her ensemble of dancers and players.
Some of the
Israeli musicians of international caliber include the Jerusalem Quartet;
violinists Hagai Shaham and Ani Schnarch; singers Claire Meghnagi and Ye’ela
Avital; and harpsichordist Yizhar Karshon.
In addition to 20 concerts,
mostly on weekends, the festival program features various master classes for
violin, viola, cello, clarinet and piano, led by prominent artists participating
in the festival.
“About 120 students come from all over the world – such
as the US, Columbia, the EU, Korea – will come to study in Eilat, as well as
Israelis who are studying abroad and use these classes as an opportunity to
visit home,” says Rozenberg. “While most of the teachers are festival
participants, some prominent professors, such as pianist Dmitry Bashkirov, come
to Eilat to teach.”
Another group of prominent teachers come within the
framework of the Keshet Eilon Music Center Spring Seminar, which this year moves
to Eilat. “We have decided to join forces,” explains Rozenberg. “I think this is
exactly what should be done in such a small country. About 50 young Israelis
will participate in this program and will study with such renowned professors as
Edward Grach of the Moscow Conservatory, Ani Schnarch and Izhak Rashkovsky from
London, Israelis Hagai Shaham, Hillel Tzori and Mila Feldman. And violinist
Cihat Askin, who is coming with his students from Turkey, especially at a time
when the relationship between our countries leaves a lot to be
Master classes members will give students’ concerts and
participate in two competitions for piano and for strings, dedicated to Franz
Liszt and J.S. Bach, respectively.
What’s more, talented musicians of all
ages are invited to indulge their passion for chamber music under the tutelage
of professional coaches in a special Chamber Music Amateur Project.
festival is supported by the Arnika Foundation from Holland, which gave it the
initial push and has secured its existence; the Israeli Tourism Ministry; the
Foreign Affairs Ministry; the Culture Ministry; Bank Hapoalim; the Eilat
Municipality; the British Council; Instituto Italiano di Cultura; the Spanish
Embassy; the Austrian Cultural Forum; the Zionist Federation of London; and
Gramophone magazine.For detailed information, visit
www.eilat-festival.co.il. For tickets, call (03) 604-5000. For
hosting packages and tickets: Israir *2737 or (03) 795-7000 or www.israirairlines.com.