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Set to take place this Wednesday and Thursday at the Jerusalem Theater, the ninth annual Israeli Music Festival, under the direction of composer and educator Michael Wolpe, will highlight the best and brightest of Israel's contemporary composers and performers. While some may cringe at the idea of contemporary classical music and its tendency toward contrived, academic dissonance, the festival offers a wonderful opportunity to combat preconceived notions with actual exposure.
Indeed, the festival intends to be more of a discovery zone than a mere concert, with workshops, lectures and performances all packed into the two-day event. Free and open to the public, it will allow attendees to literally rub shoulders with the musicians and discuss their works - a concept embraced by those involved.
"Any live concert is a great chance to expose one's work to a new audience," explains composer Ella Milch-Sheriff; "and the ability to get the audience's feedback in real time is a unique experience."
Sheriff, whose "Songs from the Edge" for string quartet and voice had its world premiere this summer at the prestigious Chautauqua Music Festival, will be presenting the Israeli debut of the piece as one of Wednesday's scheduled performances.
In addition to Sheriff, musicians will include Gil Shohat, Anat Pick, Etty Ben-Zakan, Itzak Yedid, Daniel Sambursky, Eric Walter Sternberg, Avia Kopelman, Moshe Wilensky and Mordechai Seter.
One of the more intriguing discoveries festival attendees will get to make is to learn whether there is indeed a distinctly Israeli aspect to the music coming from the nation's contemporary composers or if they are merely Israelis writing in the contemporary style. The answer could prove difficult to qualify, given the eclectic and diverse nature of Israel's inhabitants and their musical heritages. Perhaps the real question is to what extent the musicians themselves define their music as "Israeli" and how this manifests itself in their creative output.
Sheriff feels that composers who stick to their home country's experiences, history, music and culture have something important to say to those who don't. The answer is absolute: "I am first and foremost an Israeli Jewish composer."
Wednesday and Thursday. For info, call (03) 641-7559.
See Page 14 for more details.