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(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Only in its second year, the International Eilat Chamber Music Festival (February 28 - March 3) features a program of which even a well-established musical gathering would have been proud. All the participants in its 14 concerts are hot names in classical music; most are making their Israeli debut in Eilat, or are returning to the local stage after a long absence, while others are Israelis who enjoy a solid international career.
"My idea was to bring quality music to Eilat," says the founder and artistic director of the festival Leonid Rosenberg. Rosenberg immigrated to Israel from the USSR in 1977 and forged an impressive career as violinist and conductor, performing in the USSR, Germany, Switzerland, the US and Israel. He headed music conservatories, inaugurated a children's chamber orchestra (which is among the best in the country), and toured with it abroad. He was also a management member of the prestigious international summer course - Idyllwild Art international festival in California.
Nine years ago Rosenberg was appointed director of the Eilat Conservatory.
"I really don't want to underestimate my predecessors' efforts, but there was a lot to be done in the field of music education," says Rosenberg. "To achieve something, a student needs to have the highest standards possible as an example, otherwise he simply doesn't know what to aspire to. We took Eilat kids to the Tel Aviv Opera to hear quality music live, sleeping on buses there and back. But of course this was not enough. Bringing live classical music to Eilat was one of the reasons for establishing the new festival."
Rosenberg says the municipal authorities were quite responsive - though it still took him about five years to "push the idea through," as he puts it in Russian. "This is not much at all, considering I'm 'local.' Strangely enough, people tend to relate more to those who come from the outside. But apparently the Eilat Municipality appreciates our educational efforts," explains the soft-spoken Rosenberg.
In addition to the exceptional level of music being offered, there is another important feature of the festival. It is not affiliated with any specific hotel chain. Thus, in order to enjoy the music, one does not need to purchase a weekend package, although this option also exists.
"You can also enjoy the festival if you are an Eilati or if you come to Eilat by bus and stay with friends," emphasizes Rosenberg. "We wanted our festival to address all music lovers. The ticket prices are reasonable, there are discounts with Isracard, and even outdoor concerts which are free of charge."
The festival will host chamber orchestras such as the Concertgebouw from Amsterdam with Shlomo Mintz as conductor and soloist, and the renowned Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, as well as the Red Priest chamber ensemble (which won recognition at the local Felicja Blumenthal festival), the Jerusalem Trio, and an impressive list of soloists such as violinist Hagay Shaham, pianist Nikolai Demidenko, singers Ruth Ziesak and Elisabeth von Magnus, Russian cellist Leonid Gorokhov (who makes London his home), and trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakariakov, who visited Israel as a child prodigy.
The program features long-enjoyed works by Bach, Handel, Mozart, Schubert and others, but also songs by Kurt Weil and even the melodic "Verklarte Nacht" by Schoenberg, which is rarely performed in Israel.
For more details, visit www.eilatfestival.co.il