"In many ways, Jews are similar to the gypsies. We wonder among other peoples and that reflects in our music," says the founder of the Ciocarlie (Romanian for lark) ensemble, Shaul Ben Har. The violinist immigrated from Moldova 11 years ago together with his wife viola player Yulia Ben Har. While both were trained as classical musicians, in Israel they switched to folk, and seven years ago launched their ensembe, which will take part in the Haifa Symphony's Light Classics concert on Thursday. The program features Hungarian Dances Nos. 1 and 5 by Brahms, El amor brujo by De Falla, and Suppe's Light Cavalry overture.
"Many famous classical composers dug back to the roots, to folk music, using entire folk melodies in their pieces. That's precisely the case with Brahm's Hungarian Dances. In Hungarian Dance No. 5 our ensemble creates a dialogue with the classical orchestra, a sort of question and an answer: the orchestra asks and we reply, phrase after phrase. The combination of classical and traditional instruments is most interesting. At this concert our ensemble, which consists of two violins, viola, accordion, trombone and a special drum - the drummer sits upon it - will also play several pieces without the orchestra."
The de Falla piece is similarly based on music of Spanish Gypsies and on flamenco dances, as is the one by Franz von Suppe.
Until a few years ago Ben Har concentrated mainly on Gypsy, Balkan and Russian music, which is very popular in Israel. "And then I asked myself: I am a Jew living in Israel, may be this is about the time to search for my musical roots?"
That quest resulted in his new "The Opened Skies" program, which he performs together with his wife on authentic instruments that include violins, flutes and an oud. "This is a 2000-year-long musical journey through places where Jews used to live. They took a lot from other peoples a lot and also contributed a lot; they loved the places where they lived and they loved this music. By now, people in Israel say - I want to hear to a Romanian klezmer or to an old song of Jews in Russia. And this is what we give them."
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., Haifa Auditorium, (04) 859-9499