Tectonics comes to Tel Aviv

Ilan Volkov’s festival presents a rare fusion between classical and contemporary music.

Conductor Ilan Volkov (photo credit: Courtesy)
Conductor Ilan Volkov
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ilan Volkov, 36, returns to Tel Aviv accompanied by internationally acclaimed contemporary musicians to present his brainchild, the Tectonics Festival. It will take place in Tel Aviv on June 6-8 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Hateiva and Levontin 7. It is a rare encounter between classical and contemporary music, between the music that was written and printed and that which is being improvised. In other words, the festival is a rare fusion of various genres that appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences, performed by the best.
Volkov, who was born in Tel Aviv, is the son of Israeli pianist Alexander Volkov. He started his musical education on violin and piano, later switching to conducting. He studied first with Mendi Rodan at the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem, then continued at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
His is a most impressive career. In 1997 he became principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. In 1999 Seiji Ozawa named him assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2003 he became chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the youngest chief conductor appointed to a BBC orchestra. Volkov is now the chief conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He also guest conducts in his Glasgow orchestra and freelances around the globe.
In Israel, Volkov has conducted all the major local orchestras. In addition, he created contemporary music events, such as the Order Disturbances Festival, which ran in Tel Aviv’s Levontin 7 for several years.
“I love Beethoven and Brahms,” says Volkov in a Skype interview from England.
“Their pieces constitute the bulk of my work, but I am also very interested in various genres of contemporary music.
Israeli orchestras, which receive their funding from the state, have no intention of really cooperating with living composers – they perform three contemporary pieces at best and think they have done their job. I see it as outrageous and am not ready to accept it. This is not how it works in the world. It was not always like that in Israel, but that is the situation now.”
So in many ways, Volkov’s activities are his response to the conservatism of the local music world. For example, Volkov and jazz musician Assif Tsahar co-founded Levontin 7, which has become an important performance venue in Tel Aviv.
What did he mean by calling his previous festival Order Disturbances? “The old order in music does not exist anymore. The lines between the genres are blurred, and the audiences are mixed up.
Fewer people want to listen to the music of just one particular composer. Also, every artist who creates new things disturbs the existing order. In a way, Tectonics is a continuation of my early Tel Aviv programs,” he says.
Tectonics first took place in Reykjavik, Iceland, in May 2012. “The name is an homage to Iceland. It is the place where the tectonic bodies of two continents meet, so it is a symbol of Iceland,” he explains. “But the festival offers not only an encounter between different genres; it also creates an inner tension, just like these tectonic bodies.”
The first Tectonics Festival was a great success, with an extensive article about it in The New York Times . From Reykjavik, Volkov continued to Glasgow, Scotland, and then to Adelaide, Australia, and soon he will be landing in Tel Aviv. The performers are a mixture of international artists, who travel with Volkov from one festival to another, and local musicians. An important element of the concept is a huge musical body – a local orchestra, which serves as the basis for its musical programs. In Tel Aviv it will be the Israeli Contemporary Players ensemble.
“It doesn’t happen too often that orchestras commission pieces to contemporary composers, but our festival does. For example, this time Yoni Silver composed a piece called Daddy Long Legs , while the money comes from Australia,” he says.
Among the guests of the festival are international artists such as Robbie Avenaim, Eyvind Kang and Robyn Schulkowsky, who will be joined by local musicians Maya Dunietz, Assaf Talmudi and many others.
They will perform music by John Cage, Christian Wolf and James Tenney, to name a few.
Content-wise, the concert programs are suited to the venues. Volkov will conduct the Israeli Contemporary Players ensemble’s closing concert (Saturday night at 9:30 p.m.
at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art). In this concert, the audience will be invited to participate. After a brief rehearsal, they will song on the plaza outside the museum, accompanied by the musicians.
For more information, call 052-345-2935.
For reservations: Tel Aviv Museum of Art (03) 607-7070; Hateiva (03) 682-2403