Mozart packs ‘em in at Meron

The composer’s famous and intriguing Requiem is drawing music lovers from all over the country to the performance at Meron.

December 3, 2010 14:44
The Maronite Church in Gush Halav, Mount Meron.

maronite church_521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

When it comes to sonic majesty, sumptuous color and silky textures, there are few classical works to rival Mozart’s Requiem. Augment the musical content with unique physical – nay, spiritual – surroundings, and you are left with a winning combination that should stir hearts and bring the public in.

Judging by ticket sales thus far, both those effects have been sparked by the forthcoming performance of the work scheduled for December 4 (12:30 p.m.) at the 1,000-seat Maronite church in Gush Halav at the foothills of Mount Meron in Galilee.Conductor Ada Pelleg reports that over 70 percent of tickets for the concert had already been sold two weeks before the date, and says she is especially pleased by the geographical spread of the patrons.

“All sorts of people from all over the country are coming to the concert,” she says. “I am delighted that half of those buying tickets so far are from kibbutzim and moshavim in Galilee and the vicinity, which is a boon for the local economy.

“There are also quite a few people coming from Haifa and as far away as Jerusalem, and even Sde Boker and Arad.”

They do say that the more you put in, the more you are likely to gain, and Pelleg and the rest of the concert organizing team have invested considerable effort in the concert.

There will be close to 80 people on stage, including the Israel Opera Chorus and the Galilee Music Festival Orchestra, which is based on players from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as four singers – Sharon Rostorf-Zamir (soprano), Shira Raz (mezzo-soprano), Eitan Drori (tenor) and Noah Brieger (bass).

THE REQUIEM is a work that has evoked much speculation and intrigue over the centuries. It is the last composition Mozart wrote and, in fact, he did not manage to complete it before he died, on December 5, 1791, at the age of only 35.

Mozart was commissioned to write the work by Count Franz Walsegg-Stupach, although this was unknown to Mozart. The count wanted a requiem as a memorial for his wife, and some suspect that he was planning to pass it off as his own work.

There are also all sorts of theories about who completed the composition. Mozart left notes on the first seven sections, and the day before his death he had been well enough to sing parts of the incomplete composition with some of his friends.

Mozart himself sang the alto part, and used friends and actors from his new opera, The Magic Flute, for the other parts.

After Mozart’s death, his wife, Constanze, tried to find somebody to complete the work. She first asked Joseph Eybler, who had been one of Mozart’s students, but Eybler gave up after a very short time.

Some surmise that Franz Süssmayr, another of Mozart’s students and a good friend of Constanze, then agreed to complete the Requiem. He is said to have written some sections himself, but also repeated and expanded on parts Mozart wrote. The fact that much of the ending is similar to the beginning suggests that Süssmayr borrowed from sections Mozart had already written.

The Requiem was not played at Mozart’s funeral, as it was not ready. It is not known if any music was in fact played. But his Requiem has been played at memorials for him ever since.

“To my mind, Mozart’s Requiem is one of the most powerful, heavenly and moving works ever written,” says Pelleg. “I feel blessed to be able to perform it as part of our programs in Galilee, to mark the anniversary of Mozart’s death. I am also blessed by the professionals I have on board for the occasion.”

PELLEG ALSO has bigger plans for her musical involvement up north. She is planning to hold a summer music festival in Galilee in 2011, and not just any old classical music event.

“I would like our event to become as important and known around the world as the festivals at Salzburg and Aspen,” she declares.

That’s quite a benchmark. “Yes it is, I suppose, a bit ambitious, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t succeed. I have performed at Aspen and at the Bach festival in Oregon. I work with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and I have seen what is involved in organizing big festivals abroad.”

Pelleg believes Galilee offers prospective patrons from abroad some added value, too.

“Summer in the hills here is wonderful. The temperatures are comfortable, and there is no rain.” She also cites the quality of the facilities on offer.

“The Maronite church where we’ll perform the Requiem has good acoustics. Of course we’ll have to reduce the echo – all churches have that – by technological means, but I have checked the place out with lots of musicians, and everyone was positive about it. It is a great space and has great energy about it, and it is also very light and airy.”

Other venues in the vicinity include a new stateof- the-art hall at Kibbutz Baram, with a capacity of 500, and the giant amphitheater in Karmiel.

“I was there for the last dance festival in Karmiel,” Pelleg notes. “It is a great venue. It has around 4,000 seats, all with a great view, and the stage is enormous. We are looking to perform with a large orchestra there so that will suit our needs.”

Pelleg has been instrumental in holding master classes in Galilee for several years now. The events have attracted musicians from all over the world, including from as far away as Japan and Taiwan, despite the lack of funding and less than five-star accommodation on offer.

“We have run classes on a shoestring budget and put participants up in houses in Safed,” she says. “People came for the music, but they also thought the setting was exotic. That’s a good selling point.”

Pelleg is hopeful that funding won’t be a problem for the Galilee Music Festival, which will run from June 30 to July 10th.

“The festival is produced by a nonprofit organization which is recognized by the Culture Ministry, and we are getting support from the local authority as well as from the Galilee Development Authority, the IDB Foundation, [industrialist] Stef Wertheimer and private sponsors,” she says.

The program, which is due to be announced in January, will include orchestral music, chamber music and recitals, as well as some strong didactic content.

“We want to have master classes in June and July for string instruments and voice. [Opera singer] Michal Shamir and [baritone] Yaron Windmuller are lined up to give master classes, and [Russian National Orchestra conductor] Vladimir Yurovsky wants to do a conducting class.

“I think we’re in good shape, both for the summer festival and the Mozart concert. It’s hard work, and there are a lot of logistics involved, but it is well worth the effort.”

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