(photo credit: Courtesy)
European sacred music, performed by mostly Israeli musicians in a Christian
church of an Arab village – this is the unique formula that makes the Abu Ghosh
Festival an imitation-deserving model of cultural coexistence.
highlight of the festival’s opening day was the vocal ensemble Voces8 from
Voices sounding as though hand-picked for sheer vocal beauty,
perfect transparency of intricate contrapuntal textures, extreme cohesion, as
well as impeccable accuracy and mutual attentiveness, characterized voice
culture of the highest level.
Sacred music such as pieces by Gibbons,
Byrd and Monteverdi were rendered with the same polish and loving attention as
secular pieces like Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria.”
in particular, with Comedian-Harmonists- like vocal imitation of the piano, was
a masterpiece of refined performance.
Tongue-in-cheek British humor
wherever appropriate and an amusing choreography provided the finishing
Brahms’s German Requiem was an ambitious undertaking for the Ramat
Gan Chamber Choir, conducted by Hanna Tzur. It was way beyond the capabilities
of this choir. True, all the notes were precisely where they belonged – but this
is a basic requirement, not an artistic achievement. There was too much shouting
in the choir, especially in the higher registers of the sopranos, which
frequently became grating on the ear. Gradual increasing or decreasing nuances
of dynamics were conspicuous by their absence between an almost continuous
mezzoforte and a melodramatic fortissimo.
Enunciation was mostly
ununderstandable, even for native German speakers, when not resorting to the
printed text. The work’s most significant element was missing –
Of the chiaroscuro, so characteristic of Brahms, conveying
the mystery of human life, death and resurrection, nothing was left. It was
substituted by the glaring daylight of the Israel hamsin sun.
two-piano version may have saved the trouble of recruiting an orchestra but
hardly rendered a service to either Brahms or the audience.
was thus achieved at the expense of the essential instrumental tone colors.
Moreover, Gaby Argov and Nadia Weintraub did a lot of banging on the pianos,
especially for the singers’ solos, which were consequently rendered all but
Sharon Dvorin’s soprano sounded bright and clear but too
strained and assertive on the high notes. Meanwhile, Jacob Bash displayed an
appealing, sonorous baritone and an enjoyable, intelligent rendering of the