Breaking with tradition

The Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble opens its new season on October 18, with plans for a variety of musical surprises.

Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On October 18, the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble, which is young in spirit and in sound, opens its new season with a concert at Haifa’s Rappaport Auditorium. The concert will be repeated on October 21 at the Israeli Conservatory in Tel Aviv; on October 22 at the Weil Auditorium in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Shmaryahu; and then at the YMCA in Jerusalem.
The program features Mozart’s Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, K.273 and Tantum Ergo for choir, soloists and orchestra; Mendelssohn’s Cantata “Wer nur den lieben Gott last walten”; Haydn’s Symphony No. 7 and Mass No. 3; and Yehezkel Braun’s “A Great Light” – a piece for soprano, horn and strings. Barak Tal conducts the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble and the Collegium Tel Aviv Choir, with the participation of soprano Keren Hadar and French horn player Alon Reuven.
In a phone interview on the eve of the new season, Tal, the founder of the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble, says that one of the ensemble’s aims is to bring classical music closer to a wider audience and vice versa.
“The problem is not the classical music itself but probably the framework of a classical concert, which has not changed in almost 100 years – a brief opening piece, a concerto with a soloist and a 40- minute symphony after the intermission. This is probably okay with the conservative public, which grew up on this music, but it scares away the potential younger audiences. And we – young and vigorous musicians – want these young listeners in our concert halls,” he says.
“This is not easy for those who come to a classical concert for the first time,” he continues. “They don’t know the rules of the game, such as it’s forbidden to applaud between movements; the musicians are totally isolated from the audience – they only play and don’t talk to the audience – and so on. And I want to break away this framework. I want to screen information about the pieces and the texts of the vocal compositions, to screen brief video clips that tell the audience about the orchestra, about the soloists and, above all, to bring something new and surprising to every concert.”
Tal goes on to explain that the audiences that come to his ensemble’s concerts should expect the unexpected: “It could be an unannounced piece – even a modern piece that could have scared away part of the audience if they had known about it beforehand – or a brief appearance by an unknown soloist or an important one. This tension of expectation will keep the audience awake,” he laughs.
“For example, last year we performed Mozart’s Symphony No.40, and between the movements we performed other pieces by Mozart. Some audience members were happy about it, while others were really not, so I had to explain that Mozart himself did it exactly the same way. Regretfully, audiences quite often complain about many things we do, but we want them to trust us. And by these little surprises, we want to build that trust.”
Tal stresses that these changes and innovations do not affect the music itself. “Everything that I was talking about takes place before the performance of the piece or between its movements, not at the time of the performance. We just want to help the public to understand the pieces by providing them with additional information and creating a more comfortable and friendly atmosphere. Even veteran concert-goers – and even professional musicians like myself – often need more background information to have a better understanding of an unfamiliar piece.”
This season, the ensemble’s repertoire ranges from Haydn’s symphonies to contemporary music, with the accent on the classical pieces. Among the soloists are renowned Italian bassoon player Sergio Azzolini and Parisbased Israeli clarinet player Chen Halevi.
“This year we will perform more vocal pieces, since I have become the artistic director of the excellent Collegium Choir, which was founded and was led for many years by Avner Itai, arguably this country’s best choirmaster,” says Tal.
In closing, he says, “We are a classical orchestra with a young sound. We don’t change anything about the essence of the music, but we want to break the outdated framework that keeps young audiences away.”