Classical Music: The human aspect

The Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble premieres the oratorio ‘Jonah.’

December 8, 2016 18:27
2 minute read.
Boaz Ben Moshe

Boaz Ben Moshe. (photo credit: ILAN SAFRA)

The Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble presents the world premiere of Jonah, an oratorio by Israeli composer Boaz Ben-Moshe. The piece is based on four parts of the biblical Book of Jonah.

“Although I have not changed a word in the Hebrew text, mine is not a religious piece,” says Ben-Moshe. “For me, it is a very human story. A dramatic story of the vicissitudes of life, of a person torn between yearning for freedom and submission to God’s will, the story of an inner conflict. That is why it is so popular – not because of its language but because of the story itself. It is told in a very laconic way. It’s not a complicated story of 20 chapters but just four parts. It is almost like naïve art, just listen: ‘So they took up Jonah and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.’ Or ‘And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.’ That’s it: took him and threw him overboard. That simple, but so pictorial, so vivid. At the same time, it is so introverted.

Don’t forget, these are all metaphors. That was what captivated me,” he explains.

Ben-Moshe is a veteran Israeli composer. He received his bachelor of music degree from the Rubin Academy of Music, Jerusalem, and a master’s degree and PhD in composition from the University of Pennsylvania. His compositions have been performed by many orchestras in Israel, Europe and the US. He is the recipient of the 2003 Prime Minister’s Prize for composers, the GTM Prize for Composers, and the Helen Weiss Composition Prize.

Jonah is a 35-minute piece for countertenor, vocal quartet, string orchestra and percussions. To translate the story into musical language, Ben-Moshe opted for Baroque.

“The structure of a Baroque oratorio is very clear for me. This music is lucid, vivid but also mystical. At the same time, my decision was to bring a theatrical touch to the piece. The singers are actors; each of them has a specific role. The only difference is that actors act, while singers sing. The countertenor is Jonah and Narrator, sort of an Evangelist. The vocal quartet, kind of a Greek choir, performs several roles, such as the people of Nineveh, sailors, the captain, God and more,” he explains.

Ben-Moshe has nothing but praise for The Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble.

“Granted, I am biased, but I believe that this will be an interesting performance. The soloists and the orchestra are excellent musicians. And even more than that, the ensemble is really committed to performing works by local composers, written here and now. And this is not a chamber piece or another 10-minute overture performed between a Sibelius concerto and a Beethoven symphony.

This is a full-length piece, and they go for it. They are ready to give the stage to local composers,” he says.

The vocalists in the performance are countertenor Alon Harari; soprano Revital Raviv; alto Bavat Marom; tenor Ron Silverstein; and baritone Roi Sarouk.

After the intermission, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater will be performed, with Alon Harari and soprano E’ela Avital as the soloists.

The concerts take place on December 11 at 8:30 p.m. at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv (054-693-4439); and December 12 at 8:30 p.m. at Weil Hall in Kfar Shmaryahu (054-693-4439).

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