Not that anyone would entertain even the slightest notion of leaving in the middle, but members of the audience at the September 2 performance of Eyal Adler’s Colors of Dust would be well advised to stay firmly ensconced and focused until the end. The concert is one of many tantalizing items in this year’s Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, which is comprised of 50 compositions, the majority of which are based on a quintet format.
The festival starts on Sunday and will run until September 4, with all the concerts taking place at the YMCA on King David Street. Artistic director, internationally renowned pianist Elena Bashkirova has, as always, compiled an impressive lineup of artists and compositions, with the latter spanning several centuries and styles, from Brahms and Britten to Mozart and Hindemith, right up to the present day. The global array of talents and skills includes Russian pianist Alexander Melnikov, who will join forces with violinist Michael Barenboim, the 27-year-old son of Bashkirova and iconic conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim, in a performance of Mozart’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in D Major.
Then there is Hungarian-born British pianist and conductor András Schiff, whose August 30 concert takes in sonatas by Beethoven, Bartok, Janacek and Schubert, while German cellist Gabriel Schwabe will perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 13 on Saturday, along with French pianist David Kadouch, Californian-born violinist Tamaki Kawakubo, Israeli counterpart Asaf Maoz and Russian viola player Tatjana Masurenko.
The younger Barenboim will be on hand again for the rendition of Colors of Dust in an international quintet confluence that also brings together Jerusalem-born flutist Roi Amotz, French clarinetist Pascal Moragues, Russian pianist Denis Kozhukhin and Korean-born New Yorker cellist Timothy Park.
Today, classical works tend to go by all manner of intriguing, not to mention enigmatic, titles, and Adler’s work certainly pertains.
to the more curious breed.
“It is one of those titles that you only begin to understand after you have finished writing the composition, when you realize what you have done,” says the 45- year-old pianist-composer. “This is a very dynamic work.”
As mentioned, Colors of Dust offers a denouement that is well worth waiting for.
“I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a kind of twist at the end,” notes Adler. “There is some very dramatic and very passionate music in the work, which is followed by significant changes in the textures, shades and intensity. There is a change in the entire ambience, and the whole thing becomes a bit capricious and surrealistic, and very delicate, and everything disintegrates.”
That is largely achieved by flexing the sonic range.
“The last part starts out with very low registers, and the sense is somewhat dark, with a sort of micropolyphonic approach with intricate textures, and it gradually rises until it reaches the top range each instrument is capable of producing. It’s almost a range that doesn’t exist. I tried to get to the most ethereal element possible,” he says.
Some of that endeavor requires the musicians to exert themselves physically as well.
“The pianist, for example, plays on the piano strings to get a bell-like sound,” explains Adler, “and the clarinetist makes a blowing sound, with a kind of singing element.”
By all accounts, it looks like the members of the audience will embark on something of a magical mystery tour. Colors of Dust comprises one large movement, divided into smaller sections, and is played without breaks. The inner machinations of the work are highly dynamic, and the composer integrates constant transformations of harmony, rhythm, tempo, tone and color. He uses various coloristic techniques, such as microtonal vibrati and trills and playing on the bridge of the violin and cello.
Amotz and Moragues will add further drama through overblowing.
The composer says he will be delighted to take his Jerusalem audience on an expedition to some unknown sonic and spiritual destination, adding that he experienced something similar in the creative process.
“This was one of those works that you start to write and you really have no idea where it will all end up. I really like that sort of thing.
There are works where you start out with some sort of general idea, but often you don’t know how things will pan out. With this composition, about two-thirds of the way through the players start to produce sort of orchestral chords, and the whole thing increases in force, even though there are only five players. There is a sort of set that is repeated five times, and each time it becomes some sort of scream,” he says.
Adler admits to deliberating over the instrumental makeup of the ensemble.
“I considered having percussion in there, but in the end I decided that, even though the instruments are predominantly melodic, they suited this kind of writing. I felt the colors had to come out of the writing itself rather than coloring the music externally.”
The upcoming concert will actually be the piece’s second airing. It follows a successful performance at the Jewish Museum in Berlin in April.
“The concert in Berlin was very successful,” notes Adler. “The audience responded very well.”
Violinist Barenboim also contributed to that performance.
“I was a bit nervous before the rehearsals, but it was a very smooth process, and the musicians handled the work very well. And the venue, with its high ceiling, suited the work perfectly,” he says.
The Berlin date was not Adler’s first professional foray to Germany. His Gate of Darkness composition was one of the works played in the Wannsee Recordings concert in the Berlin suburb where the infamous Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942. That was when 15 SS and government officials of the German Nazi regime gathered to discuss and ratify the Final Solution.
The concert was held there on the 67th anniversary of the conference.
“That was an emotional experience,” says Adler. “We are in some way connected to the Holocaust, aren’t we?” Although the Jerusalem setting is very different, the performance of Colors of Dust promises to be an emotional affair as well.
For tickets and more information about the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival: (02) 652- 0444 and www.jcmf.org.il.