What makes this music festival different from all other music festivals?
By MAXIM REIDER
The eleventh Felicja Blumental International Chamber Music Festival is arguably one of the most exciting events on the crowded Israeli music scene - which does not lack quality performances in any field. But daring and creative programming by Annette Celine (the daughter of the late Polish pianists that the festival commemorates) and music organizer Avigail Arnheim is what makes this festival different.
The lineup boasts exquisite period-instrument ensembles onstage together with a wild and sensual Spanish folk dancer, Bach and bossa nova - along with baroque music for the kids and hilarious British stand-up comedian/pianist Reiner Hersch's show, mediated by Israeli conductor/educator Roni Porat - and this is just the beginning of the list.
As usual, the festival program, which takes place May 18-23 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Arts, features both familiar names and artists appearing here for the first time.
Jeanne Lamon, a Canadian violinist and conductor and a noted specialist in baroque music, awarded with degrees and prestigious prizes for her contributions in the field, already made her Israeli debut more than 10 years ago with her Tafelmusic Orchestra. Under her leadership, the baroque music ensemble has achieved international stature and recorded numerous albums. Her solo recordings include Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, the Juno Award-winning Bach Brandenburg Concertos and the Bach Violin Concertos, among others.
This time, Lamon comes with a small chamber orchestra called Les Violons du Roy, which she describes as "one of Canada's best, consisting of young and accomplished young musicians, who are full of young energy and are very disciplined and precise."
The orchestra plays mostly baroque and contemporary music. Speaking over the phone from her Toronto home, the conductor explains that the group plays baroque music on modern instruments, but with baroque bows, "and that's what is unique about that, because usually orchestras play either on contemporary or on period instruments."
Lamon says that she understands this compromise: "Musically speaking, it is very practical. Granted, it is limiting and in the long run could be frustrating, but is still better than playing baroque music with modern bows. Above all, what they [the musicians] do is interesting and successful."
Lamon, who divides her time between performing and conducting (as well as teaching), says she leads the orchestra from the violin, "since this was the common practice in that period; you don't need real conducting for this kind of music."
In Tel Aviv, Les Violons du Roy will present two programs. "A wonderful Canadian mezzo-soprano, Mireille Lebel, who is coming with us, will perform excerpts from Vivaldi's oratorio Juditha triumphans and from the opera Radamisto, by Handel."
The programs also feature string concertos by Vivaldi and music by J.S. Bach: Concerto for two violins in D minor, the Third Brandenburg concerto and a Concerto for two Harpsichords (with Israeli Michael Borgstede and a Canadian harpsichordist as soloists).
"But there are pieces by the Jewish Venetian composer Salamone Rossi, which are real fun for me, since I did a project researching and bringing forward his music in the North America," reveals Lamon. "I will probably be able to tell the audience about the story of this relatively little-known composer."
Lamon, who has visited the country several times privately, adds that as a Jew she is happy to perform in Israel again and to meet more local musicians.
Les Violon du Roy under Jeanne Lamon makes its Israeli debut May 21 and 23 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Arts. For more details visit www.blumental-festival.org; for reservations: (03) 620-1185.
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