About music and immigration

Omer Wellber pays homage to Israeli composer Mark Kopytman.

March 21, 2013 10:56
3 minute read.
Maestro Omer Meir Wellber

Maestro Omer Meir Wellber. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Maestro Omer Meir Wellber conduct the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra, of which he is the artistic director, Saturday night at the Ra’anana Performing Arts Center. The program features Concerto for Violin and Orchestra Cantus IV by the late Israeli composer Mark Kopytman, a work which has a special meaning for Wellber.

“Formally, I was never his student and he was not my teacher, but he was a musician and a person from whom I learned a lot,” says Wellber. “Kopytman deeply influenced me through our conversations about music and other topics. I learned his pieces and discussed them with him, visiting him at his home, and then conducted them. That is how I got to know him. Ours was communication on both personal and musical levels, and he contributed immensely to my understanding in two fields; the Russian immigration to Israel and contemporary music.

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“I had quite a few schoolmates and later musical friends who came from Russian families too, but they came to Israel in their early childhood,” he says. “Kopytman’s experience was totally different. Through our conversations, I understood what immigrating could mean for a mature artist in his 40s. Coming to a totally different country with a culture and language that were foreign to him. I also learned about the life of the Jews in Soviet Russia. Kopytman’s was quite a tragic experience: The premiere of his opera was canceled after the dress rehearsal just because he applied to immigrate to Israel. I also learned many things about Israel. In fact, it changed my understanding of the country I was born in.”

But, of course, it was contemporary music which was the focus of the communication between the veteran composer and the beginner musician.

“Through maestro Daniel Barenboim I encountered contemporary music by such composers as Pierre Boulez and Eliott Carter, while Kopytman, who came from a different background, revealed other facets of modern music,” says Wellber. “I have conducted many of his pieces, and thus learned not only about music but also about even larger things, such as the role of a composer in modern society.”

Speaking about the choice of the concert program, Wellber says, “Violinist Itay Tzori was Kopytman’s student, and that is one of the reasons we decided to perform his violin concerto, which I like so much. It is beautiful, interesting, communicative; it reflects Kopytman’s Russian musical background, as well as various cultural influences that he experienced in Israel. It also gives the violinist many opportunities to showcase his artistry.”

A busy international conductor, Wellber is speaking to us as he makes his way from to Teatro La Fenice in Venice where he is about to start a general rehearsal of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and Brahms’s Second Symphony .

At 31 he is about to conduct at La Fenice, an important venue in the history of Italian music in particular and European music in general. “I’ve been conducting at La Fenice for four years now, and I spend at least a month here every year. I know the musicians, and our relations are great. We simply enjoy working together. The atmosphere is so good here, that we can really concentrate on music making and achieve an excellent performance. To be honest, venues such as Venice, Munich, or Milan’s La Scala, where I often conduct, are of less importance to me. The true experience is not about the place but about the people you know and meet again and again, bringing them new pieces and new composers and then making music together.”

Omer Meir Wellber conducts the Ra’anana Symphonette and performs the piano part of Mozart’s piano concerto on March 23 at the Ra’anana Performing Arts Center.

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