Israel Festival Review: Openings and Chani Dinur

Events throughout the month of May.

CHANI DINUR (photo credit: ILAN BESOR)
(photo credit: ILAN BESOR)
YMCA, May 30-31
The Israel Festival’s concert series entitled “World Music” started on the left foot, presenting the Portuguese Fado singer Cristina Branco.
Fado, one of the most intimate and personal genres of folk music, was vulgarized by unnecessary, distorting electronic amplification. Branco’s presumably beautiful voice was made to sound like it was coming through a canned food container, even though other singers before her were perfectly audible without resorting to amplification in this rather small YMCA hall. The intimacy and profoundly moving melancholy of Fado were thus banished, substituted by a commonplace pop-style rendition.
When it was over, one could only imagine how fascinating it could all have been if one could have enjoyed Branco’s apparently enchanting natural voice. What a pity.
The superfluousness of such amplification was proved on the next day, in the same hall, by the Estonian Hortus Musicus ensemble, in the opening of the Festival’s “Early Music” concerts. Even the softest pianissimo of this group, consisting of three male singers and period instruments, could be heard well in the hall’s farthest corners, permitting one to enjoy their natural charm.
Conductor-violinist Andres Mustonen is a veritable bombshell of temperament and musical energy, carrying his musicians along with him and infecting the audience with his tempestuous spirit. In the performed Renaissance and Baroque works there was no trace of the pedantic accuracy and academic solemnity one often encounters in other performances.
In this rendition they became contagiously alive, performed as they were with vigor and also discreet humor when applicable.
Mustonen knows the secret of musical flexibility, achieving subtle slowdowns and accellerandi, and holding rests to increase tension – always within the limits of refined taste.
To sum up, this was a concert such as makes a festival worthwhile.
Chani Dinur Jerusalem Theater, May 30
Chani Dinur’s Poetry Duets show at the Jerusalem Festival was everything one hoped for, and then some. For starters Dinur is blessed with a special voice which, thankfully, has not been reined in by stuffy voice teachers. While she is a classically schooled pianist – she finally got around to tickling the ivories on her solo slot of the encore – her vocal skills are completely self-trained. That came through in delightful bucketloads at the show.
Her uncluttered musical delivery and warm personality made for an intimate show. Notwithstanding the intermittently bothersome lighting effects, Dinur almost made you feel as if she were singing for you, personally, and right by you, rather than several rows away on the stage.
All her sidekicks for the concert – 10 high-quality instrumentalists plus a guest singer, Micha Biton – played their part to the hilt. Particularly noteworthy were her duets with veteran clarinet and bass clarinet player Peter Wertheimer and harpist Sunita Staneslow, while bass guitarist Benzy Gafni and double bass player Gilad Efrat eked out an impressive range of textures that took in eastern colors along with the rock-, jazz- and western classical- oriented sounds.
The coziness factor was enhanced by the fact that Dinur read out a couple of poems before she sang them, and the quality of her delivery, which ranged from angelic to downright raunchy, allowed her to produce a full and multi-colored sound when singing unaccompanied, too.