Last week the Kol Hamusica Festival took place for the 30th time and, judging by the program, the veteran event’s organizers have no intention of allowing the country’s preeminent annual classical music festival to start showing its age.
The lineup was very varied, and artistic director-cellist Zvi Plesser made some bold choices. One of them being to up the jazz content of the festival and get the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music fully on board, under the aegis of veteran saxophonist and former school head Amikam Kimmelman.
Over the five days of the festival there were various jazz workshops, with American saxophonist Tia Fuller, and the improvised side of the festival program culminated in the Charlie Parker, Bird with Strings Friday evening concert. In addition to Fuller and Kimmelman, the show also featured Rimon teachers pianist Ronen Shmueli, bassist Arie Volinez and drummer Eitan Itzcovich, with Yaron Gottfried conducting.
They were augmented by a nine-piece classical ensemble as they performed such perennial jazz favorites as “April in Paris,” “Just Friends” and “Summertime” which were all included in the original Bird with Strings Parker album originally recorded in 1950.
The packed audience appreciated the non-classical entertainment and the jazz ambiance was maintained into the wee hours, at a well-attended jam session in the Pastoral Hotel.
The festival was brought to a sumptuous close with the Saturday morning Farewell Concert which incorporated a well-crafted lineup of Mozart’s Divertimento in B-flat major for two horns and strings, and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 in A minor, ending with a high-energy and visually captivating contemporary work, Benjamin Yusupov’s Quintet for marimba and string quartet, which was originally commissioned for the 1996 edition of the festival.
The Divertimento was performed at a jaunty pace, while Plesser and the other three string players produced a powerfully emotive rendition of Schubert. The five-dayer ended on a suitably upbeat note with Chen Zimbalista keeping the audience well entertained with his agility behind the marimba and assorted other percussion instruments. It seemed suitable to close with a contemporary work, as the festival looks ahead to its fourth decade.