Classical: Outstanding concert

The Mendi Rodan Chamber Orchestra opens its season with a world premiere.

December 30, 2016 14:07
2 minute read.
Jonathan Keren

Jonathan Keren. (photo credit: PR)

The Mendi Rodan Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Prof. Eitan Globerson, will perform the world premiere of Symphony Cantata by Israeli composer and violinist Jonathan Keren.

Born in Israel, Keren, 38, started his music studies as a violinist.

During the course of his military service as a member of the Outstanding Musicians unit, he arranged more than 50 pieces for chamber and vocal ensembles, all of which were performed by military bands and the IDF Education Corps Orchestra, as well as in concert halls. Following his service, he studied composition. He then moved to New York, where he continued his studies at Juilliard.

“After graduating from Juilliard, I spent six more years in New York, working as a composer,” says Keren in a phone interview from Switzerland. “It was in New York where I realized that not only classical but also other music attracted me, such as jazz and folk.

But after 11 years I decided to return to Israel. By that time I was married, and our daughter was a year and a half old. I wanted her to grow up in Israel and experience the same childhood as mine.”

Married to Swiss-born violinist Cordelia Hagmann, Keren and his family switched from Switzerland and Israel and back.

“I think this rotation is fair. It’s good for me and for my family,” he says.

Keren divides his time between performing worldwide, composing and arranging. His pieces have been performed by renowned soloists at some of the most prestigious international and local venues.

“In addition to composing, I create arrangements for Camerata Geneva. They bring soloists from different fields of music, and I somehow bridge them with the orchestra. Also, several American orchestras commission arrangements from me,” he says.

The Mendi Rodan Orchestra is the orchestra of the Jerusalem Music and Dance Academy students.

“I believe they are as good as a professional orchestra,” says Keren.

Speaking about his new piece, he explains, “It is a symphony cantata, which is inspired by cantatas by Bach. But unlike his cantatas, it is played by the orchestra and not sung.”

He continues, “In its character, it is a neoclassical or maybe neo- Baroque piece, to be precise. There is Bach’s Cantata #4, “Christ lay in death’s bonds,” based on a melody of a Lutheran choral. This melody has influenced me strongly. I can’t explain why. And I felt that I really wanted to do it myself – to build an entire piece on one melody. Melody here is raw material, and from there you can go in many directions. I have to admit that I was obsessed by this melody, and I finally felt it was time to do it. I can’t be sure that after composing the piece I got rid of this obsession – we’ll know in a few years. In fact, I already used this melody in my previous pieces; not openly but rather hinting at it. But this time I did it in a clearly neoclassical manner.”

He concludes, “The obsession is not totally gone – it has just switched to another theme.”

The opening concert of the Winter Symphony season of the Mendi Rodan Symphony Orchestra also features Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, with soloist Sasha Pavlovsky; and Brahms’s Symphony No. 4.

The concert takes place on January 5 at 8 p.m. at the YMCA in Jerusalem. For tickets: 054-929-3405;

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