Music ensemble ‘Profeti Della Quinta’ returns to Israel with Baroque style

Profeti Della Quinta (photo credit: MEL ET LAC)
Profeti Della Quinta
(photo credit: MEL ET LAC)
Profeti Della Quinta, an intriguing Israeli/Swiss ensemble of Baroque and Renaissance music, returns to Israel to perform with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra. The ensemble’s members are mostly Israeli musicians who graduated from the renowned Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. They first became known several years ago, after the premier of the Baroque opera Joseph and his Brethren, written by the ensemble’s music director Elam Rotem, who is a composer, bass singer and harpsichord player. Rotem wrote the music to the original Hebrew text. Israeli critics praised the local premier as the major music event of the year, yet international festival organizers were cautious to invite the ensemble, finding the idea of composing, at this day and age, an operatic piece taking place in the 17th century, quite strange. 

“But over the years it has changed; the piece has proven itself. Since then, we have performed Joseph and his Brethren 15 times throughout Europe with two more performances being scheduled for this year, one of them at the prestigious Cologne Festival of Early Music,” says Rotem.

This time, as part of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra concert, the ensemble will perform two new pieces by Rotem: Psalms 1 and The Lamentations of David, from the first Book of Samuel. Together with the musicians of the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, the group will perform a selection of works by Claudio Monteverdi, including the famous mini-opera Il combattimento di Tancredi e
Clorinda, with the multitalented Rotem holding the baton and leading the joint musical forces.

Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, an operatic scene for three voices composed by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto drawn from Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata, is the central piece of the concert, says Rotem. 

“In this piece, Monteverdi showcases his ability to express through music the sounds of the battle, that of swords and shields, and the horses’ neigh. The narrator’s tone, which is almost hysterical, reminds [us] of that of a sports anchor – this really is a war happening here and now.”

He goes on to explain that his new piece, a 10-minute long motet The Lamentations of David, is also about war and depicts war scenes. 

“It is written for five voices, five instruments and basso continuo, in the genre of motet concertato, similar to Psalms by Monteverdi.
What I like about the piece – and this is what I have discovered in the text – is the immense contrast between the scenes of the national mourning for our fallen heroes, and the very intimate and personal fragments of David’s lamentations. This richness offers the composer many musical possibilities.” 

Rotem explains that he was attracted to this specific text because he finds lamentations interesting.

“Somehow, people like lamentations, and so do I. The Book of Lamentations has even become a short music form in Baroque and Renaissance music,” he says.

As he often does, Rotem has again composed his new pieces for his the members of Profeti Della Quinta – countertenors Doron Schleifer and Roman Melish, and tenors Lior Leibovici and Jacob Lawrence, taking in consideration their specific vocal abilities. 

“They were happy to perform and to record new pieces – generally speaking. It is not so often that contemporary musicians have a chance to premier Baroque pieces,” he smiles.
The concerts take place: February 23 at 8 p.m. at the International YMCA Jerusalem, February 24 at 8 p.m. at Zucker Hall, Heichal Hatarbut, Tel Aviv and February 25 at 8 p.m.at Hecht Hall, Haifa.