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It's 30 minutes before showtime. Jonathan Aner, Matan Givol, and his brother, Ira, are stretched out on couches in their dressing room. "Do you want some apple?" Matan asks me. "I hope you don't mind if I eat." For the moment they seem like any group of affable young men in their twenties - big appetites, friendly, quick to make a joke. This trio, however, is decidedly out of the ordinary. Performing as the Tel Aviv Trio, Jonathan (piano), Matan (violin) and Ira (cello) have won a dizzying number of international music competitions, most recently the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition. They have collaborated with such celebrated artists as Itzhak Stern, Miriam Fried and members of the Juilliard String Quartet. In addition to performing in nearly every corner of the globe, they were also the first Israeli musicians invited to give a concert in Qatar.
"I think we arrived there about two weeks after Israelis were allowed in the country," recalls Jonathan. "Unfortunately, this was also right after an Israeli attack on Lebanon." At the last minute, Qatar officials cancelled the concert. "It was pretty dramatic," explains Ira. "We couldn't get our instruments out of the hotel. Everyone told us we were targets."
Qatar wasn't the only harrowing experience for the Trio. In Denmark, a group called "Boycott Israel" protested in front of the concert venue. "There was a huge fuss, and a lot of media showed up, which ended up being good for us," says Ira. "We encounter all kinds of reactions when we travel," adds Matan. "We don't have any intention to represent a specific policy. We're musicians."
"But we do represent Israeli culture," says Jonathan. "We want to show a different face of Israel. And in many countries, we feel so welcome."
In Thailand, for example, one of the king's advisors lent Ira a cello after his unexpectedly broke. On a flight to Germany from Vietnam, a young Vietnamese woman recognized Jonathan from their televised concert. "We kept in touch after the flight. It's really amazing to make connections with people from all over the world."
The trio is currently part of the Professional Piano Trio Program at the New England Conservatory in Boston. With their grueling schedules, constant travel and growing fame, is it hard to have a normal life?
"Definitely," says Ira. "Our schedule doesn't leave much time for other things." Jonathan adds, "It's hard to imagine setting down and having a family. We're very involved in what we're doing. Someday we hope to teach, to use music to engage kids and communities."
The Tel-Aviv Trio performed at the Jerusalem Music Center on as part of the chamber concert series last week. For more information about the trio, please visit www.telavivtrio.com.
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