This green and pleasant music

The three-day International Musical Spring Festival is in full Blum.

This green and pleasant music (photo credit: Jean Baptists Millot)
This green and pleasant music
(photo credit: Jean Baptists Millot)
This year’s International Musical Spring Festival takes place at Kibbutz Kfar Blum this Thursday-Saturday and offers a wide range of musical entertainment, as well as some get-out-and-about items over the three days in the verdant surroundings of the kibbutz and the Upper Galilee.
The professional guest list features top-flight musicians such as pianist Elisha Abas, Russian-born British violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and French pianist Eric Le Sage, in addition to artistic director and cellist Zvi Plesser. The performance schedule incorporates works by composers such as Chopin, Brahms, Liszt and Mozart, with one of the highlights featuring a supergroup synergy between Le Sage, Sitkovetsky, Plesser and Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) viola player Roman Spitzer. The quartet will perform Beethoven’s Variations on Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Brahms’s Piano Quartet No. 2, as well as a contemporary work in the form of Jewish Austrian 20th-century composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Piano Trio in D major, Op. 1.
One of the most varied concerts will be performed by the Tempera Ensemble, a quartet established a year ago by IPO trumpeter Yigal Meltzer; pianist Amit Dolberg; percussionist Tomer Yariv; and saxophonist Gan Lev.
The Tempera concert on Friday evening covers expansive musical ground, taking in works by Leonard Bernstein, 20th century Romanianborn Gyorgy Ligeti, John Cage’s vocal tour de force Story, and jazz guitarist Pat Metheny’s First Circle.
According to Lev, the foursome is far more than the sum of its performing parts. “Tempera is a very special entity in that it operates on a sort of collective basis. We invest whatever revenue we generate in commissioning new arrangements by composers for our repertoire.”
That, says the saxophonist, affects increasingly wider circles of musicians. “Tempera doesn’t just take works and perform them. We create our programs together, in terms of choosing our repertoire and writing new arrangements.”
Considering the wide range of the ensemble members’ individual musical avenues, the diverse performance spread is only natural. The quartet’s International Musical Spring Festival concert also includes the Finale of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6, arranged by Acre-born composer Ziv Slama; bassist Noam Weisenberg’s take on Argentinean Nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion; and Meltzer’s arrangement of a piece of music that may ring familiar for Israelis old enough to remember the halcyon single channel TV days here.
“We are all of a certain age, and as kids we all watched [American drama series] Dallas in the 1980s. Everyone watched that show. Yigal [Meltzer] had a neighbor who used to complain about Yigal playing the trumpet, so to get his revenge, Yigal went to his neighbor and stood by his window and played the theme from Dallas. Now that’s the fun part of our repertoire, which Yigal arranged for us.”
Lev says that for him, Tempera was love at first sound. “I remember, from the very first time we played together, feeling that I had with me genuine lions of music,” he recalls. “We rehearsed our first arrangement, of Candide by Leonard Bernstein, somewhere in Netanya – back then we didn’t have a regular rehearsal space – and I was blown away by how we all played together, from the very first bars. That was a great feeling. And we just keep on going from strength to strength.”
And there is more than “just” quality arrangements and instrumental interpretation on offer from the quartet.
“In the first meetings the four of us had, to discuss where we wanted to take Tempera, I said I wanted our concerts to be performance shows. I wanted us to come out from behind the role of musicians playing scores, from behind the sheet music, and to make it into something like a theatrical act,” says Lev, adding that he was aware that he was aiming to push the boat out, far away from its safe harbor. “You get classical musicians who, when they just have to say two words in a concert, find that a much more challenging thing to do than just playing the compositions. That is something outside their familiar domain of work.”
Lev’s cohorts initially balked at the idea, but the concept eventually began to pan out.
“We said we’d start with so-called ‘regular’ concerts but, in fact, they were never ‘regular,’” he says. “We tell stories and we do the Cage work [Story] with words by [American poet] Gertrude Stein. We have a lot of fun with our programs.”
The festival program also features some hands-on activities and other non-concert items, such as a discussion with Plesser and the festival’s general manager about this summer’s Voice of Music Festival, which will also be based at the Pastoral Hotel in Kfar Blum; a hotel lobby gathering with Abas; and a lecture by psychologist Bracha Hadar entitled “The Drama of the Gifted Child.” Hadar’s talk will be augmented by live music.
This is, of course, also a good time of year to get out into the countryside to catch some of the floral explosion underway, and there will be a trip to a suitably pastoral location in the vicinity of the kibbutz.
For reservations and additional information: (04) 693-6611; (04) 681- 6640/2; and