Review: Brahms' German Requiem by the Jerusalem Music Academy Choir

The performance was not only accurate but also conveyed the work’s message of consolation with audible identification and enthusiasm.

January 4, 2017 22:23
1 minute read.

Theater. (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)


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Brahms: German Requiem
Jerusalem Music Academy Hall, January 1

Two premieres of Israeli works were performed as curtain raisers by the Jerusalem Music Academy Chamber Choir, conducted by Stanley Sperber.

Shahaf Aoda’s “A White Bird in the Black Night” is based on a poem by Nathan Sach who, terminally ill, already sees his life’s approaching end.

The work is appropriately mournful, though in a personal, not conventional or sentimental style. It sounds sincere in its appealing emotional restraint, and therefore makes a moving impression.

Neta Shahaf’s “Dawn, I beg you,” based on a text by Shlomo Ibn Gvirol, attempts to express his poetical-philosophical ideas mainly via polyphonic manipulations. Its intellectual approach nevertheless leads up to an intense climax, followed by a calm after the storm.

The main attraction was Brahms’ German Requiem, presumably to celebrate the New Year on January 1 in an appropriately mournful mood. Its performance by a choir consisting mainly of Academy students was an ambitious enterprise, considering the work’s emotional and musical profundity.

However, the performance was not only accurate but also conveyed the work’s message of consolation with audible identification and enthusiasm.

From delicate soft sounds leading up to a shattering fortissimo, with all the intermediate nuances, and incisive articulation of the text, the choir achieved an impressive performance.

Yair Polishook’s dark, resounding baritone and strong stage personality sounded altogether persuasive.

Ayelet Kagam’s bright, pure and immensely appealing soprano soared radiantly over the choir.

Pianists Irina Lunkevich and Bruce Levy did their best to substitute for an orchestra. However, even though Brahms himself wrote the two-piano version, it goes without saying that an orchestra would have been preferable. For a music academy that boasts a symphony orchestra the piano version was an amateurish choice.

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