Gems from Japan

The Red Sea Classical Music Festival features a stellar array of talent from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Japanese woman 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Japanese woman 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The next annual Red Sea Classical Music Festival is almost upon us, with the 11th edition due to take place in Eilat between January 5 and 7. As per usual, the artistic program and the symphonic concerts are overseen by Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.
This year’s program includes Berlioz’s Requiem, the score of the five-act opera The Fiery Angel by Prokofiev and Beethoven’s eternally stirring Symphony No. 9, The Ode to Joy. There will also be a piano recital by Daniel Trifonov, which will includes works by Chopin and Debussy.
Over the last 20 plus years, music festivals in Eilat have brought together a wide range of artists from all over the world and from many different cultures. The chamber music side of this year’s festival features seemingly unlikely pairings between musicians from Israel and Japan.
Pianist-composer Ilan Rechtman, who is responsible for the chamber music category of the festival, says we are very fortunate to have such a stellar array of talent here from the Land of the Rising Sun.
“2012 marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Japan and, as we know, the Japanese are a very musical nation,” says Rechtman, adding that there is plenty of mutual appreciation between the two countries. “They have great esteem for Israeli classical artists, who are very successful all over the world. Whatever else people around the world may say about Israel, there is no question about the quality of our classical musicians.”
There will be all sorts of events to mark the milestone in the bilateral relations throughout 2012, with the Eilat chamber music synergy as the opener.
Rechtman’s side of the festival lineup opens on January 5 at Herods Palace Hotel, with a violin quartet performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, featuring Sergei Ostrovsky and Arnaud Sussman from Israel and their Japanese counterparts Tamaki Kawakubo and Mayu Kishima. On the following day at the same venue, Kishima will be back in action when she teams up with Rechtman and Israeli cellist Kyril Zlotnikov for a rendition of Beethoven’s Trio op. 1 no. 3 in C minor and Trio Op. 70 no. 2 in E-flat major.
“We received support from Japan to bring six of their top classical performers here, and we have joined them with six of our own artists to form four trio groups that will perform the entire cycle of Beethoven’s works for piano trios,” Rechtman explains.
The confluence of Israeli and Japanese classical musicians is intriguing. Despite its geographical and cultural remoteness from the Western world, Japan has always opened its doors to Western artists from a wide range of genres. American and European jazz musicians have been performing there to enthusiastic audiences for more than 60 years, and classical ensembles have also found great popularity in Japan.
Rechtman says that despite their very different approach to life and their artistic discipline, Israeli and Japanese classical musicians do find common ground. “The Japanese are very disciplined and very serious, while the Israelis tend to be more off the cuff. There are advantages and disadvantages to both mindsets. The Israelis have a greater ability to make on-the-spot decisions, which can be exciting. They may be less dedicated than the Japanese, but when you get someone who is very talented, spontaneity can be a boon. On the other hand, the Japanese are very focused, so it is harder for them to make instinctual decisions, but they achieve great results with their approach, too.”
That dedication, says Rechtman, has helped Japanese classical musicians to make great strides. “The [classical music] tradition in Israel, which was created by teachers from Western Europe and later from Eastern Europe, is significant. The Japanese don’t have that tradition, but they have progressed a lot, and they work very hard and have achieved exceptional results, and that goes for every field in which the Japanese work.”
Rechtman believes that the fusing of artists from the very different backgrounds can, at the highest level, spawn exciting results.
“I think that the combination of these two worlds can yield a very good product. I am sure that the musicians from Israel and Japan will complement each other in the best possible way,” he asserts.
Japanese-American violinist Tamaki Kawakubo, who will be part of a trio that will perform three Beethoven works at the King Solomon Hotel in Eilat on January 7, is a top achiever in her profession.
“She won a top prize in the Tchaikovsky Competition,” notes Rechtman, referring to Kawakubo’s second-prize placing in the 2002 installment of the prestigious event which takes place in Moscow every four years.
So quite literally, the stage is set for some scintillating creativity in Eilat.
“That’s the nature of festivals,” says Rechtman, “that people come from different parts of the world to produce something special together. I look forward to that happening at this festival, too.”
In fact, the pianist was so inspired by the chamber music program that he decided to lend his own skills to the performance schedule, with Kishima and Zlotnikov. “I deliberated over whether to play myself, but the combinations of the artists, and the exceptionally high level of the Japanese and Israeli musicians, really moved me and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to play with them.”
For more information about the Red Sea Classical Music Festival: