doron toister 88.
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Rishon Lezion Symphony principal cellist, Doron Toister - whose new piece, "Symphonic Prayer," premiered on July 13 and will be performed throughout this week - didn't see himself as a composer until recently. Starting as a performer on piano at five and switching to cello at six, he studied with Uzi Wiesel in Israel and continued at Bloomington University Indiana with outstanding cellist Yanos Starker, later becoming Starker's assistant. Toister has performed with most Israeli orchestras and given solo recitals as well.
"It all happened gradually," explains Toister, "starting from arrangements of classical pieces and songs. The orchestrations came later, and people liked them so much that I was finally commissioned to do a piece of my own."
His arrangements belong to different genres and vary from "A Suite of Tangos" for the Israeli Philharmonic to Brahms' "Octet based on the Violin Concerto" and songs by Nathan Yonathan.
"I'm lucky. I'm an orchestra player, so each concert or rehearsal becomes a composition lesson. Since I started composing, the very way I listen to other instruments has changed. I both play my part and try to understand when other groups sound beautiful or not, and why. You learn also from darkness," he concludes.
A year ago, after a Toister piece for cello and orchestra was performed by the Ra'anana Synfonietta, Rishon Lezion Orchestra CEO Ehud Gross approached the cellist to write an orchestral piece.
Tall and sturdy, black-bearded and with a black kippa on his curly hair, Toister is exactly what he looks like - an observant Jew. "I'm coming from a secular background," he says. "Not that our family was anti-religious, but we were rather unaware of Judaism. We were a family that loved art and music; that was our religion, and there wasn't much place left for theology.
"Gradually, I've become religious, starting from observing Shabbat some 20 years ago," says the 49-year-old, unwilling to go into further details. All in all, it's not surprising that Toister has created a "Symphonic Prayer."
"Unlike many contemporary pieces, mine is ear-friendly. I simply took the things I like most: I combined Jewish melodies - which I find very deep - with jazz harmonies and saw they work well together."
The "Symphonic Prayer" consists of three movements - "Devotion," "Quest" and "Joy of Heart" - and is 20-25 minutes long. On the heels of yesterday's premiere, it will be performed by the Rishon Symphony under artistic director Dan Ettinger Saturday and Monday in Rishon Lezion, and Sunday in Tel Aviv.
The program also features Till Eulenspiegel's "Merry Pranks," by R. Strauss, and "Des Knaben Wunderhorn," by Mahler, with soloists alto Edna Prochnik and baritone Bernd Weikl.