Gil Shohat is truly a jack of all trades. Born in Tel Aviv, Shohat is not only a prodigal pianist, but an accomplished, world-renowned composer and conductor. Shohat is hosting a new, three-part concert series at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv, aptly named Trilogy.
The first concert, on April 15, is “Songs from the Movies.” On May 13, Shohat will host the second concert, “Love Songs.” The last, “Biblical Poetry,” will be on June 16.
Shohat sat down with The Jerusalem Post to talk about choosing the best songs from the movies, crazy love and the ever-expanding parameters of classical music.
What can you share about yourself as a musician? I’m a composer, pianist and conductor.
I’m not really sure in which order. I started to play when I was four, in kindergarten, and then started my official studies at the age of six at the recommendation of my teacher. They actually took me to the conservatory when I was four, but the conservatory said I was too young. Since I was 10, I’ve performed concerts and since I was 12 I’ve written pieces of music. Since I was 27, I’ve conducted orchestras. In my life so far, I’ve done about 3,700 official concerts. I’ve written more than 100 pieces of music, including nine symphonies, 15 concertos, and five operas. I’m also the owner of a production company that produces more than 300 concerts a year. I work in all musical genres, although I come from the classical background. I collaborate with pop, jazz and world music artists all over the world.
I have my own concert series in China and Italy. I used to have one in the United States also, but it went bankrupt during the financial crisis of 2009. I have a big summer concert series in the park in Herzliya that attracts about 9,000 people every weekend.
You’re new project, ‘Trilogy,’ kicks off with a concert called ‘Songs from the Movies.’ Can you talk about that? It’s a dream come true. I always wanted to have my own concert series in what could be called the Great Synagogue of Israeli music in Tel Aviv. Until now, I can’t recall a single musician who was invited to perform a concert series because the [Israel] Philharmonic [was] quite restrictive regarding other classical events happening in its own house. Now the conditions have changed and there’s a need. So this was a phone call that I waited for and expected a few years because I’m running the biggest concert series in the country. I have 30,000 subscribers, which is more than the Philharmonic. So Trilogy is the first event, and the first concert is music and songs from the movies. The nature of this series is not only classical, although I do have a symphonic orchestra on the stage. I have two choirs from Tel Aviv. I also have pop stars Nurit Galron and Daniel Solomon. We have Keren Hadar, who is a great soprano.
She comes from the opera world, but she sings musicals, world music and jazz. She is just amazing. We are performing famous songs from classic movies. It starts with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, Yentl, West Side Story, and then it goes to Israeli movies. It then goes through musical movies based on classical composers. We are performing Amadeus by Mozart, which by the way was the film that influenced me the most.
What was the selection process like for this concert? One of my biggest fascinations is Bernard Hermann and his music for the Hitchcock films. I knew I would perform pieces from Vertigo and Psycho. But it’s a whole process, choosing which songs to perform because I also have to have a dialogue with the singers.
Most of the artists I work with, especially the pop ones, they like to choose for themselves. So there is always a dialogue.
It’s a special production; this is not a show that you can see anywhere else.
Then the second concert is ‘Love Songs.’ What was that like to put together? It’s not just love; it’s crazy love, or the madness of love. I’m bringing the passion of Yasmin Levy to this concert. She sings Spanish and Ladino songs. We connect very well on and off the stage. In addition, probably the songwriter that I adore the most in the history of Israeli songs, Mati Caspi will be singing some of his songs. I’m also bringing Red Orbach to perform some covers. We haven’t decided on everything yet, but for sure we will do “Crazy Love,” since that is the theme of the evening, and “I Put A Spell On You.”
Why did you choose the idea of crazy love? People who don’t know classical music tend to think that it’s boring or for old people.
But this music touches the borders of our personalities, our abilities and our psychology.
I like borders. To do an evening of love songs is quite banal, but to do an evening where love touches madness is exactly what classical music is talking about. There have been several operas on this subject, like Carmen, and others. This is why I’m performing some arias as well.
The last concert is ‘Biblical Poetry.’ Can you describe that? This idea started from my collaboration with Ahinoam Nini and David D’aor. They are two friends and great artists. Both of them touch on biblical subjects in their art.
I’m also bringing in an orchestra, choir, and opera singers for this concert. We’re doing a concert from the liturgy; the Christian one, but it’s all based on the Old Testament.
If you take the most popular oratorio ever written, Messiah by Handel, most of the text there is taken from the Tanach [Hebrew Bible]. So it’s not necessarily a Jewish event, but it’s an event that touches our book.
It sounds like all three concerts are very unique in the sense of not only their themes, but the mixing of different musical genres.
I believe we’re in the 21st century, not the 20th. Artists used to love separation.
The composer could never be a pianist, and the pianist could never be a conductor.
The general idea was about being very focused. It’s like when parents tell their kids to go to college and study one subject to learn it very well. Classical music suffers from this notion. The definition of classical music is very misunderstood.
What is it? When people hear an orchestra or a violin, they say this is classical music.
But classical is the gathering of all musical genres that happened in the past. In the times of Schubert and Brahms, there were many different kinds of styles. Maybe jazz was not part of the musical tradition yet, but there were many improvisational elements present. In the 21st century there is a blend. The world of separation is melting and some people see this as a threat. I see it as an advantage and I’m using it for the benefit of my listeners.