‘Israel is dear to my heart,” says internationally acclaimed violinist and conductor Maxim Vengerov in a phone interview from Switzerland. “Several members of my family live there, and we own a home in Migdal near Lake Kinneret. I like Israeli audiences a lot – they are well educated, attentive and responsive, with many Russian immigrants among them. It’s a pity that I don’t appear in Israel enough, but here finally is a chance!” Vengerov, who currently makes France his home, is referring to his new two-day festival, which will take place in Tel Aviv at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium on September 19 and 20.
In 2013 Vengerov inaugurated an annual festival in Tokyo, which featured concerts and master classes, with great success.
“So I asked myself, ‘Why not in Israel?’” he says.
Among the participants in the local festival are Israeli pianist Shira Shaked; pianist and conductor Vag Papian, who was Vengerov’s first conducting teacher; the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion; and the International Menuhin Music Academy Orchestra from Switzerland. The concerts will be hosted by Yossi Schiffmann, an Israeli music journalist who combines vast musical knowledge with a gift for dramatic narration.
The program of the first day features sonatas by Elgar and Prokofiev, which Vengerov will perform, accompanied by Shaked, as well as two pieces for violin solo and orchestra – Tchaikovsky’s Serenade Melancolique and Saint Saens’s Havanaise, in which Vengerov will play the solo part and conduct the Menuhin Academy Orchestra.
The following day, Vengerov will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, accompanied by the Rishon Lezion Symphony under Papian.
“In Israel, I performed this concerto with the Israel Philharmonic when I was 16, on the eve of the First Gulf War. Those were very special days, and I remember them well. I am familiar with the Rishon Symphony. It is a highly professional orchestra, and I am looking forward to working with these fine musicians,” says Vengerov.
After intermission, Vengerov will play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade, as well as conduct the orchestra.
“Since the days of [Belgian violinist, composer and conductor] Eugene Ysaye, no one combined these two jobs in this piece, so I hope it will be interesting and the audience will enjoy it!” he says.
Vengerov has an extensive performing career, which he couples with teaching and recording.
“I often appear as both soloist and conductor within the framework of one concert, and these programs are in great demand,” he says. “In the first part of such concerts, I perform some classical concerto, such as that of Tchaikovsky, and after intermission I conduct a symphonic piece. Audiences throughout the world are very interested in such programs,” he says.
Vengerov also teaches violin at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland. And he soon plans to inaugurate a label of his own, VNV, which stands for Vengerov Music Vision.
“The first disc will be a Brahms concerto,” he says.
The Vengerov Festival takes place on September 19 and 20 at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv. For reservations: *9066 or www.eventim.co.il/maxim