(photo credit: Courtesy)
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche once maintained that "Without music life would be a mistake." If that is the case, then the organizers of this year's Israel Festival have done it right, and then some.
There is an abundance of music of numerous disciplines on offer at the year's premier cultural event, which kicks off this Wednesday. In years gone by, one sometimes got the impression that the classical end of the market had the upper hand at the festival, and the classification emphasis tended to ebb and flow from year to year. This time round, however, the festival chiefs have covered as many musical bases as they could.
Works by Mozart, Shostakovich, Grieg and Sibelius will duly shine over the two and a half week festival period, but so will jazz, rock, pop, blues and a variety of ethnic endeavors.
One of the more intriguing slots is occupied by the Aerial Tower ("Migdal HaPore'akh BaAvir") concert presented by the Hai HaUman Ensemble led by Israel Prize-winning composer Andre Hajdu. Their Israel Festival concert of old Chabad nigunim a few years back sold out so quickly that a second show was programmed in. The eight-member troupe's May 29 concert at the Khan Theater will be based on a boundary-crossing program of texts from the Mishna presented in a surprisingly contemporary musical context. Hajdu likens the venture to "a rope bridge built by Indians over a deep chasm."
The rock section of the festival takes place between May 26 and 31, and reflects the shifting sands in the local music industry. The 10-concert slot is being presented in cooperation with Hatav Hashmini, the Jerusalem-based venture that appears to be making significant inroads into market slices formerly dominated by longstanding big players Helicon and NMC. The musical fare on offer is highly varied and features the likes of pop-rock pianist vocalist Ariel Horowitz, hard-hitting new rock group Devek, up and coming singer Hadas Dagul, prog rock outfit Trespass and pop newcomer Yuval Zaderman. A rock party at The Lab on Hebron Road takes off after each of these NIS 40 concerts at the Jerusalem Theater amphitheater.
Traditionally, festivals provide a platform for new projects and the Papua New Guinea certainly answers to that description. The concert (June 7) will be fronted by veteran pop-rock singer songwriter Corinne Alal in - for her - an entirely new setting. The compositional substructure is provided by Alona Turel, with lyrics and in-between number poetry spots courtesy of Agi Mishol. While Alal has never previously ventured too deeply in jazzy terrain, she does employ some improvisational element in her output. For the occasion, Alal will be backed by three stalwarts of our jazz community, saxophonist Nitzan Ein Habar, bass player Yurai Oron and drummer Eitan Itzkovitz.
One of the icons of the Sixties also gets some of the festival spotlight on May 26 and 27, although not in person. The tribute to legendary poet-singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is surprisingly set to be entirely in Hebrew. Throughout most of his life, Cohen has proudly identified himself as a Jew, and he even performed here for soldiers during the Yom Kippur War. The program includes narrations by Kobi Meidan and musical arrangements by Daniel Salomon. The top of the range artists saluting Cohen include Ivri Lider, Eran Tzur and Shlomi Shaban, among others.
And if its bread and butter stuff you're looking for, but with a panache supplement, you need look no further than the Flute Tunes concert on May 24, fronted by flutist Noam Bukhman. Bukhman will add a new slant to some of the staples of the Israeli songbook, with the substantial backing of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, guest guitarist Reuven Sarousi and narrator Alon Ofir.
Jazz has been a feature of the Israel Festival for some years now and there will be a jazz marathon on May 28 featuring the likes of saxophonist Albert Beger, fellow reedman Eli Benacott, oud player-violinist Yair Dalal and richly talented young pianist Omri Mor. The other jazz slot sees pianist Tomer Bar, backed by a quartet, make his debut appearance on a major stage. Considering that he is only 12 years old, one could hardly say that Bar has finally achieved recognition, but with a debut album fresh out on the Hatav Hashmini label and a string of well received gigs around the country under his young belt, Bar looks set to make quite a splash at the festival.
One of the more eagerly-awaited music gigs at the festival is the June 7 Knessiyat Hasekhel rock show. While the band has been around for 13 years now, its brand new Autobiography double album is the band's first release for three years and, judging by the singles aired on the radio to date, the show promises to be energetic and engaging. And, if the band's own output isn't quite enough to pack 'em in, the guest appearance by Ehud Banai should fill up those last few seats at the newly refurbished ICC auditorium.
This year's festival will end with a bang, or two, with the Mosaic electro lounge project on June 9 and 10. Shmuel Noifeld and Eyal Leon Katzav will join forces in a multimedia extravaganza mixing music, dance and video embellishments projected onto a giant screen. The project culls from a wide range of musical disciplines, including rock, electronic music, Arabic motifs, rock and all manner of alternative sounds and rhythms. Noifeld and Katzav will be supported by no less than 10 instrumentalists and four vocalists in what promises to provide a powerful finale to a richly appointed musical festival offering.
For more information about the shows, go to www.israel-festival.org.il