A wall-to-wall musical journey

The acclaimed Brodsky Quartet will participate in the annual Eilat Chamber Music Festival.

Brodsky Quartet (photo credit: Courtesy)
Brodsky Quartet
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Now in its ninth year, the International Eilat Chamber Music Festival will take place between February 25 and March 1. As always, the festival hosts some of the world's best musicians and features Israeli premieres.
First-rate chamber music concerts are at the center of the programs, which also feature ethnic music, jazz and dance.
The festival is hosted by the Dan Hotel.
The roster of performers features both familiar and debuting artists. The former list includes such well-known names as the Red Priest chamber music ensemble, which will present a new program with Israel’s Batsheva dancers; young British violinist Chloe Hanslip; Israeli pianist Amir Katz and conductor Lior Shambadal. Among the musicians making their Israeli debut in Eilat are the Brodsky Quartet from England; the Art Jazz Quartet from Estonia; the Igor Lerman Chamber Orchestra from Russia; pianist Daniel Ben-Pianaar; cellist Francois Salque; and violinist Anton Barachovsky.
The Brodsky Quartet’s program sounds especially intriguing. It is a special song cycle whose creation was initiated by the quartet, commissioned to several composers, premiered at the City of London Festival and has embarked on an international tour. The cycle, entitled “Trees, Walls and Cities,” is dedicated to cities that have walls.
In a phone interview from his home, violist Paul Cassidi of the Brodsky Quartet tells the story of the piece, which will be performed in Eilat and Jerusalem.
"I was born in Northern Ireland in the city of Derry, which is a tricky place to come from. Because when you say you are from Derry, you give more information than you want to: It means that you are a Catholic and Nationalist.
But if you call the city by its other name, Londonderry, it says that you are a Protestant and a Unionist," he explains Cassidi goes on to say that in 2013 his city celebrated 400 years of its famous walls, "which have been conserved in a pristine condition. The walls are one mile round, while the old Roman calls in the City of London constitute a square mile. A wall is not a simple thing," he says. "If you build a house near a tree, it can grow and ruin your home; and if you plant a tree near a wall, the tree will eventually overgrow it, so nature always wins, showing that walls are useless. And mind you, the name Derry comes from an old Gaelic word meaning ‘oak.’” And this seems to be the idea of the new music project “Trees, Walls and Cities.”
"We saw this piece as a journey, which will start in Derry, continue to London (because of Derry-Londonderry), go through Europe and end in Jerusalem,” he says.
"In commissioning the songs, we tried to bring people from different backgrounds. For example, in Derry a Nationalist wrote the music, and a Unionist wrote the words. We wanted it to make sense musically. And the greatest song cycle of all times is that of Schubert, which is also a journey – Winterreise.
So I told the composers to think about Winterreise and in particular his ‘Der Lindenbaum’ song because it is about the linden tree. I said, ‘If it works for you, please use this little motif.’ They used a little theme from this song, each one in his own way," he recounts.
The singer who will perform the cycle is mezzosoprano Lore Lixenberg. “She is such an intelligent musician,” says Cassidi. “She has a beautiful and very versatile voice. She performs in musicals in London but also operas. She sings very contemporary music but also feels comfortable with Schubert and Brahms and so forth." It took three years to bring the song cycle together.
"The first performance took place at the City of London Festival, which was quite appropriate because we were in the center of the old Roman walls. It was broadcast live on BBC radio. At the end of the performance, we had 10 composers on stage taking a bow. Really amazing!" he says.
The Jerusalem song is composed by Habib Hanna Shehadeh, based on the ancient Aramaic text of the Song of Solomon.
"It is just like Handel, like The Messiah, but of course it is different. And the singer at the end almost explodes. She goes so high and so loud, it is like a crazy flourish!" he says.
Which wall are we talking about – the Western Wall or the separation wall? "I had them both in mind,” says Cassidi, “but in fact this it is neither them. The walls in the song cycle are not physical; it is the symbol, the idea."
The Brodsky Quartet and mezzo-soprano Lore Lixenberg will perform “Trees, Walls and Cities” om February 26 at 8:30 p.m. at the YMCA in Jerusalem; and February 27 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Dan Hotel’s Tarshish Hall in Eilat. For more details, visit http://www.eilat- festival.co.il/.