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Every summer, about 50 young violinists from around the world come to Israel to hone their skills under the guidance of the best international teachers. Usually the Keshet Eilon course takes place in picturesque Kibbutz Eilon in the Western Galilee but this year, its 16th, the sudden war on the Lebanese front forced it to a more secure location - cozy Beit Berl College near Kfar Saba, arranged at the last moment by master course managing director Gilad Sheba.
Only 26 students are taking part this year (15 of whom have been here before), and international teachers - with the exception of Cihat Askin from Istanbul - have canceled. But Israeli musicians with international careers, such as course patron Shlomo Mintz, artistic director Itzhak Rashkovsky, his wife Anni Schnarch, and Felix Andrievsky from London, as well as Chicago-based Vadim Gluzman, will be on hand, along with Hagai Shaham, Haim Taub and Lena Mazor of Tel Aviv.
"This year, the atmosphere at the course is very special," says Rashkovsky. "We have left the program unchanged; we feel that we owe these concerts to Israel."
One can hardly imagine that one of the twentieth century's major violinists, Ida Haendel, who is scheduled to arrive later this month, would cancel.
"Why should I not come? I've been coming to Israel in good times, so why should I not come when the situation has worsened?" she asks.
As for her role, Haendel emphasizes that she never teaches.
"I give an opinion and explain to anyone who wants to listen what I do on the violin. The student then makes his or her own decision," says Haendel. "To be a dictator, to impose your views on whoever is playing for you - I am the reverse. My mission is not to educate but to play violin and express myself via music. For me, words are not good enough."
Haendel, who in her childhood was a student of legendary teachers Carl Flesch and George Enescu, confides that she has never believed in "schools."
"You have to treat every composer individually. You have to play Beethoven or Mozart or Bach like a German because this is what they were. You have to change your style, your personality and your concept according to the composer."
Born in 1928 in Poland, Haendel began her performing career as a child prodigy in pre-WW II England. She is renowned for her sound - moving, rich, sincere and captivating. Does she think that today's violinists play with a different sound?
"I don't know what sound is; you are born with this quality." She takes to task those teachers who demand a certain sound for the stage "because first of all it is about beauty, beauty of sound and musicianship."
So, can students be taught anything at all, as each one has his/her own personality and individual concept of beauty?
"Culture and maturity come with age and experience. But what I believe in is talent. You cannot manufacture a talent, and even if you practice 10 hours a day it is not going to help you if it's not within you. You are born with a gift, and then you develop it."
Haendel has no problem with her reputation for carrying a sense of obligation to the composer.
"My master is the composer. If I don't respect what is in the score, I have no right to perform it."
What does she find totally unacceptable?
"Distortions, which I hear very often, because some people want all the attention. The theatricality of it, all these body gyrations - I don't like it. It appeals to audiences but has nothing to do with the music. It means being an entertainer, not a musician."
Haendel will be leading master classes on August 3 and 5 at 5:30 p.m., and plays a recital on August 4 at 8:30 p.m. On August 4 at 5:30 p.m. she will be giving an open interview with the audience.
The Keshet Eilon program features individual lessons, master classes and concerts, as well as special programs. Most of the course activities are open to the public, either free or for a modest fee. Students' concerts and master classes take place at Beit Berl, while evening concerts are at the more spacious hall of the Ra'anana Municipal Center for Music and Arts. A gala concert at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center is scheduled for Tuesday, August 1.
Details at (04) 985-8131/191 or www.keshetei.org.il