Michael Wolpe 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This year Michael Wolpe, composer, researcher and music life organizer, an
ardent champion and supporter of Israeli music, will step down from his position
as artistic director of the Israeli Music Festival, which he has headed for six
years. The 2012 edition of this annual event takes place between October 1 - 5
in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Beersheba and Dimona, with the free entry to all
Despite the obvious success of the festival, the modest Wolpe
refuses to talk about what he has achieved but rather what he tried to do,
leaving it to others to judge the results of his efforts.
“My idea was to
turn the festival from a local event, which appealed to a very limited circle of
music lovers, into an all-Israeli festival and to attract new audiences to
Israeli music. I believe that things have changed, and the festival today is not
what it was six years ago. The fact that we are performing in five locales
across the country speaks for itself. I also believe that the festival gives the
audience a clear sense of abundance and not scarcity of Israeli music. These
changes were not easy to achieve – our budget is essentially the same as it was
six years ago.”
Wolpe says there are three objectives in the festival’s
programming. The first is to present the music of Israeli composers who are no
longer with us – the founders’ generation, such as Paul Ben-Haim, who was named
Composer of the Year by the Ministry of Culture (meaning that his works will be
performed all season and not just in the framework of the festival).
second objective is to open the stage to new composers. And the third is to send
a message of pluralism to the public. “This is not about political monopoly or a
specific genre – just the opposite,” says Wolpe. “We are talking about immense
richness of styles and modes of expression.”
He goes on to elaborate that
over the years, there is not one Israeli composer whose work has not been
performed at least once in the framework of the Israeli Music Festival. “I
believe that the moment a composer’s picture and the name of the piece is
printed in the program, that composer enters the annals of Israeli music. And
for me personally, it has been very important to take part in this process of
writing our music’s history,” he says.
As the country’s leading
specialist in Israeli music, how does he define this phenomenon? “Israeli music
includes an endless variety of genres,” says Wolpe, “from Mizrahi pop music to
electronic avant-garde art music.
Interestingly enough, in the field of
art music, which is written down with notes and later performed in concerts, we
have witnessed dramatic developments.
Art music returns to mass
consciousness for two reasons: It is written in a communicative style, and it is
politically and socially engaged, thus becoming relevant.
develops in two major directions. One is an amalgamation of Eastern and Western
music (and this is what the founders of Israeli music were looking for in the
1920s and ’30s).
The other can be attributed to the growing interest of
young Israeli composers in Jewish liturgy and Hebrew texts, which they include
in their works. Hundreds of pieces are written every year.”
up: “I adamantly believe that Israeli music, which is profound, rich and varied,
is as important for our survival as high ballet, high prose and high
poetry. A nation without culture is a nation without a future.”