Gewandhaus and the St. Thomas Choir

Marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, Gewandhaus Orchestra and the St. Thomas Choir will perform in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and Jerusalem

December 3, 2015 10:34
3 minute read.
Concerts in Israel

Gewandhaus Orchestra and the St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor). (photo credit: PR)

For the first time in Israel the much-appraised Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor) will perform together in a special series of concerts between December 4 and 8 in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Herzliya.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel, the choir (whose history dates back to the year 1212) and the orchestra (founded in 1743) will perform at the Tel Aviv Opera House (December 4-5), the International Convention Center in Jerusalem (December 6) and in Leipzig’s twin city – Herzliya at the Performing Arts Center (December 8) In a phone interview from Leipzig, Dr. Stefan Altner – the managing director of the St. Thomas Choir and CEO of the St. Thomas Choir Foundation, who will also be the harpsichord player for the concerts in Israel, says that he has been a part of the Thomanerchor for a long time.

“I sang in the choir in the 1960s-’70s. At the time Leipzig was a part of the German Democratic Republic and I remember an awful experience, when soon after the Six Day War we were forced to change the words of one of JS Bach’s motets, praising Israel – it was very much like Nazi Germany – and my heart was always with Israel. Luckily, this belongs to the past and now I am very proud and happy to bring the choir to Israel.”

Altner says that “next to the Gewandhaus, we are the best music institution in Leipzig. St. Thomas Church Choir is a world renowned ensemble. As it is widely known JS Bach was its cantor for 27 years, and we represent Bach tradition. But we are not a museum, far from that. The choir performs music from Gregorian chants to our time. Many outstanding musicians influenced the music style and quality of music making of the choir, Heinrich Schütz and Mendelssohn among them, to name just a few. We perform with the renowned Gewandhaus orchestra every week.”

He accentuates that cooperation with Gewandhaus is of utmost importance for the Thomanerchor.

“Outstanding German conductor Kurt Masur, who in the past served as the artistic director for the Gewandhaus, was the first to bring the choir to New York to perform St. Matthew Passion, by JS Bach, together with the New York Philharmonic. For us this was a great chance to appear in the US with this excellent orchestra. Masur was attached to our choir anyway – quite often I saw him attending our concerts in St. Thomas Church, just as one of the audience. He is a great Bach lover and he always enjoyed listening to our boys choir. Kurt Masur is an outstanding personality, and although his physical condition is nowadays not that good, his mind is bright.”

In Israel, the choir will perform the Christmas Oratorio, by Bach.

“Our tour takes place in the framework of celebrations of 50 years of establishing diplomatic relations. First, it was suggested that we will perform some a capella pieces, but I was sure that this will be great to come together with the Gewandhaus orchestra. We shall perform four of the six cantatas from the Christmas Oratorio.”

The concerts will take place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Herzliya, “which is Leipzig’s twin city, so the bundespräsident [president] of Germany, together with the president of Israel will attend the performance. So this is clear for us that these concerts go far beyond a music event. We represent Germany. This is not so easy to show closeness to Israel, but we are happy to do what we do.”

The concerts take place at the following venues with prices varying from NIS 169 to NIS 329 a ticket: Tel Aviv Opera House – Friday and Saturday, December 4-5 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: (03) 692-7777. The International Convention Center in Jerusalem – Sunday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

Tickets: *6226. The Performing Arts Center in Herzliya – Tuesday, December 8 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: 1-700-70-70-29.

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