Chamber music for all sorts

Classical, contemporary and every chord in between define this year’s Jerusalem festival.

concert311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The ninth annual Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival is fast approaching (August 31-September 8) and it looks like this year’s YMCA program is just about as eclectic as you could imagine. The perennial favorites duly have their place, with works by the likes of Schumann, Brahms, Chopin and Debussy. And there are some less expected items from the here and now too, specifically Tzafuf Bazug, a new work by American-resident Israeli composer Tamar Muskal.
Tzafuf Bazug (Cramped Relationship), which will be performed on Monday September 6, forms part of a commensurately wide-ranging evening program that also features works by Schumann, contemporary French composer Pascal Dusapin and Brahms. The show is a multifaceted effort with a lineup that includes a cellist, two violinists, a pianist, singer Ye’ela Avital and two narrators, author David Grossman – reciting his own material – and actress Dalia Shimko.
In the program notes, the festival’s artistic director Elena Bashkirova expresses her delight with this year’s agenda, saying: “It is always a challenge to prepare a new program for the festival, hoping that you will find it beautiful, interesting, exciting and daring.” The last of the epithets certainly seems to hit the nail on the head when it comes to Tzafuf Bazug.
According to Avital the concert is likely to be as challenging for the onstage artists as for the audience. “I normally perform baroque music and I’ve never encountered anything like this before,” she confesses. Naturally, as a consummate professional, the 32- year-old vocalist is looking forward to the concert, with as much anticipation as anxiety. “I read it the text and I love it. I have admired David Grossman, as a person and as a writer, for a long time. He has this genius ability to depict things succinctly and precisely.” Therein lies the added value of the Tzafuf Bazug material, but also comprises one of the biggest land mines. “I don’t know how [composer] Tamar Muskal managed to write music for such a precise written text. It must have been very difficult.” Still, Muskal and Grossman have enjoyed successful synergies in the past so, presumably, they have each other’s artistic measure.
And there are more artistic hurdles for Avital to transcend too. “I don’t really have an operatic voice, which I will need for this program. It is a very dramatic piece, and I think this is going be tough and exciting, for me, to the same degree.”
The subject matter is also a sharp departure for Avital. Grossman’s text portrays different kinds of relationships, from the romantic – imagined or actual – to the mostly humdrum nature of a long-term liaison. The latter picks out everyday concerns and events, including descriptions of some of the sounds and sights of mundane household chores. “I really don’t know how I will manage to sing words like “washing machine” or “dishwasher” operatically,” continues Avital. “It is sort of sarcastic and strange. I am looking forward to the rehearsals with Tamar [Muskal] and getting clearer instructions from her. Naturally, I will bring some of my own understanding to the role too. I reckon this will be a rewarding experience for everyone.”
Besides the artistic issues, Avital also has some logistical matters to cope with too. “I broke my foot the other day,” she explains. “I am hoping it will heal before the concert. If not, I’ll just have to sing sitting down.”
With a star-studded artist roster, with musicians from Israel, the US, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, Sweden and Korea, and such a wideranging program this year, the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival offers something for all classical musical tastes. There is also something of an intimate familial feel to the lineup, with artistic director Bashkirova’s celebrated pianistconductor husband Daniel Barenboim, and their son violinist Michael Barenboim on board too.
For more information about the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival: