Abu Ghosh Festival
Renaissance and Baroque Vocal Music
Kiryat Yearim Church and Crypt
Where can one find Christian liturgical music, performed by mostly Israeli musicians in a Christian church of an Arab village? At the annual Abu Ghosh Festival, of course.
Two outstanding composers of Italy's Renaissance and Baroque periods, Claudio Monteverdi and Alessandro Scarlatti, were highlights of this year's rich and varied program. Monteverdi was represented by the British vocal ensemble I Fagiolini, directed by Robert Hollingworth. For diversity's sake, they presented a selection from both his sacred and his secular works - motets and some veritable gems from his madrigals.
The group's enchanting voices, perfect coordination, pure intonation and clear enunciation were a rare aesthetic pleasure. They made this 400-year-old music sound not antiquated, but lively and close to the contemporary listener. The singers' refined taste and noble restraint, though, seemed to prevent them from emphasizing the dramatic and emotional aspects of this composer whose achievements in opera pervades many of his works for the church and the ducal palaces.
World premieres of two works by Scarlatti - a concerto for recorder and two violins, and a Cantata for alto and instruments - were an attraction of the concert. They had been unearthed in the library of Muenster, Germany, and edited especially for performance in Abu Ghosh.
This revival of Alessandro Scarlatti, unfairly neglected due to his more famous son Domenico's better publicity, deserves special praise. It is pleasant to be able to report that the works were performed with professional competence and contagious enthusiasm and vitality. A noteworthy discovery was Hadas Gur, whose rich, dark-timbred alto and dramatic expressiveness were a pleasure to hear and behold. David Feldman displayed an appealing countertenor, especially effective in the small-sized Crypt of the Crusader Church. Recorder flutists Michael Hell and Neomi Rogel, violinists Eitan Hoffer and Shlomit Sivan, harpsichordist Zohar Sheffi and cellist Kathrin Abrahams performed their solo and ensemble parts faithfully and with enjoyable cohesiveness.