Music and memory

Mishkenot Sha’ananim hosts a concert to commemorate Benny Gal-Ed.

January 26, 2017 16:06
4 minute read.
Israeli Oboist Roni Gal-Ed

Israeli Oboist Roni Gal-Ed. (photo credit: MATT DINE)

A special concert will take place at the Jerusalem Music Center on Saturday night. It is dedicated to the memory of Benny Gal-Ed, who died of cancer a year ago. For many years, he had nurtured promising young Israeli musicians. Some of Israel’s top musicians will take part in this musical evening.

“I didn’t want it to become too much of a memorial or a purely family event,” says his daughter Roni Gal- Ed, a successful oboe player. “From the start, I wanted it to be a chamber concert in the full meaning of the word, with my father invisibly present in the auditorium enjoying the pieces he loved, performed by the musicians he loved. As a result, it was immediately clear to me who would participate in the concert and what pieces would be performed.”

Thus she explains, “Among the older musicians are violinist Guy Braunstein, cellist Zvi Plesser and violist Gilad Karni, whom my father first nurtured, and then they became his close friends. Together with Shai Wosner, they will play Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 1, which my father loved. The last concert that he attended, to my best knowledge, was that of the Trio Mondrian Trio. He was not feeling well at the time, but he enjoyed the performance immensely. In the Jerusalem concert, the Mondrian Trio will play Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2. I will participate in August Klughardt’s Schilflieder: Five Fantasy Songs for Oboe, Viola and Piano and in the world premiere of Oded Zehavi’s Lily. The piece by Klughardt is based on a gloomy poetic text, which would speak to my father, too. I made it a point not to perform a solo recital but rather to play with my friends because, again, that was what he liked.”

Zehavi composed a new piece dedicated to the memory of Gal-Ed. Speaking about his longtime friend, he says, “Benny was a very special combination of a man of culture and a doer. He loved people and music immensely and had a profound understanding of both. A talented flutist, he opted for a military career, but after his discharge he dedicated himself to nurturing the most talented young musicians, first in the framework of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and later at the Jerusalem Music Center.”

He adds, “We were very close, and I witnessed this love, excitement and dedication, his deep belief in the importance of supporting young local talent that accompanied his work.”

Zehavi recounts, “At the time we met, he worked for the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. Administrative philanthropy, let us describe his position in this way, is not an easy job. Imagine that you have three scholarships, and there are 10 applicants. Whatever you do, everybody will hate you. In his decisions, Benny Gal-Ed relied on his intuition and followed it adamantly to the end.”

He goes on, “One of his aims was to bring Israeli musicians back to the country as much as it was possible. He was in constant contact with them, waiting for the moment that he would be able to offer them jobs in Israel. And that was exactly what happened to me. When I was studying abroad, he asked me if I would consider participating in some new and challenging music projects at Tel Hai College. That was what brought me back in Israel.”

How did it feel for Zehavi to compose a piece in memory of a man who was so important to him personally and to local music life?

“It is complicated, to begin with. The death of someone who is dear to you releases a flood of emotions, and you feel an urge to do something about it. Some people erect a monument, others contribute a Book of Torah to a school. And composers write a piece of music – there’s nothing new about that. There is an entire tradition of composing music in memory of a colleague. But again, it is not simple. Feelings alone don’t work: ‘Oh, he was such a lovely man, what a pity he’s gone’ – that is not music. The question is How to create an individual portrait using musical instruments? It took me quite a long time to develop the concept of the piece. Benny Gal Ed was a multifaceted personality, and so was the music I wrote in almost a rondo form. Once the concept was formulated, I spent 20 days on an isolated farm somewhere in the United States writing the music intensively. But as I said, emotionally it was not simple: Encountering the death, you want to do something about it, to fight the oblivion, but what can you do, after all?”

The concert in memory of Benny Gal-Ed takes place on January 28 at 8 p.m. at the Jerusalem Music Center, Mishkenot Sha’ananim.

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