The Israel Festival amps up its roster

The classical music programs are becoming more diverse and dynamic.

May 25, 2017 09:15
3 minute read.
Ars Antiqua

Ars Antiqua. (photo credit: BRENDO HEINST)


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The approach to the programming of the Israel Festival in Jerusalem has changed in the past few years, becoming much more innovative. This includes the festival’s classical music programs at the Jerusalem Theatre.

“There are two important things that I’d like to accentuate,” says Emmanuel Witzthum, who is responsible for the classical music programs of the 2017 Festival, which will take place between June 1 and 18. “First, we have been reconsidering the very concept of the programming; we want to present a wider and more profound view of the world of music. Second, we are absolutely not afraid of experimenting.”

He goes on to explain, “Take for example the Vienna Istanbul – Music between Empires program. Three outstanding visiting ensembles specializing in 18th-century classical music will perform in three separate concerts. Ars Antiqua from Austria will present its Colours of Cultures on June 2 at 1 p.m.; Ensemble Tourbillon from the Czech Republic, together with Israeli singer Revital Raviv, will offer its Vienna 1709 concert on June 9 at 2 p.m. While the Sarband Ensemble, with musicians from Turkey, Germany and Japan, will present its intriguing A la Turka – A la Franka program on June 16 at 2 p.m.”

The Psalms is a joint project of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. It includes music from the West and the East, as well as contemporary music. The Chamber Choir of the University of Music Franz Liszt Weimar, Germany, as well as special guest Rabbi Haim Louk, will take part in the concert on June 7 at 8 p.m.

Sound Charter, a three-hour program by Ilan Volkov, is described in the program notes as follows: “Sound Charter is a collective and individual musical journey of discovery into the unknown recesses of the Jerusalem Theatre. The audience is invited to wander freely throughout, beginning in the Sherover Plaza at the front of the theater and ending in the Rebecca Crown Hall. Throughout the evening, familiar pieces will be played alongside new ones – Debussy’s “Syrinx”; motets by Renaissance composers William Byrd and Heinrich Isaac; Baroque fantasias by Henry Purcell; and a variety of 20th-century pieces and contemporary sound design.”

How does Witzthum comment on this? “This project questions the old concept of a concert.

Is it still something that we have been accustomed to: people come to a concert hall, listen to the performance and leave, or maybe nowadays there is something more to it?” The Sound Charter is an original festival production, which is unusual in many ways, says Witzthum.

“It is unusual that the festival produces a classical music production, especially a program that includes music of the 21st century, and asks the audience not to sit statically in the concert hall but to actively participate in the performance. Again, this says one important thing: The festival is not afraid to try new directions and see what comes out of it,” he asserts.

The Sound Charter concert takes place on June 7 at 10 pm. in various parts of the Jerusalem Theatre.

How have audiences been reacting to the changes in the programming approach in the past three years? “On the whole, the reaction is very positive to the theater, dance and music programs,” says Witzthum.

“First of all, we see a larger number of younger people in the audience, and that is extremely important for us. Also, not only Jerusalemites attend our concerts and shows. Granted, there is nothing new about that, but now we are seeing more people coming from outside the city. And we have managed to reach new audiences, such as students, young artists and young people in general. In a word, the audience is more eclectic than it used to be, and that makes us really happy.”

Witzthum is a violist and composer.

He received his education in New York and spent six years mostly composing and performing in France and Berlin, performing with Ensemble Intercontemporain directed by Pierre Boulez and with Daniel Barenboim’s Staatskapelle Berlin. On his return to Israel, Witzthum continued his education in sociology and culture studies. He then switched to managing challenging local artistic institutions and events and now serves as the musical consultant of the Israel Festival.

For the detailed festival programs and reservations:

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