Eilat Chamber Music Festival doesn't disappoint

Cellist Mischa Maisky, who played solo parts while leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, was simply marvelous.

cello 88 224 (photo credit: Maxim Reider)
cello 88 224
(photo credit: Maxim Reider)
The Third International Eilat Chamber Music Festival Highlights February 27- March 1 Classical music festivals are not lacking in Eilat, and the International Chamber Music Festival is undoubtedly the most exquisite among them. Due to the ongoing efforts of its founder and artistic director, Leonid Rozenberg, the festival boasts top quality performers and a variety of styles. Any major Western capital would be proud to host such roster of names. The four-day long intensive - some say too intensive - program featured 12 concerts, up to four a day, making it almost impossible to digest such quantities of excellent music. Here were some of the highlights: Cellist Mischa Maisky, who played solo parts while leading the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, was simply marvelous; they really breathed the music together, creating warm, moving, naturally flowing sound and captivating the audience with every piece they played, be it the dramatic "Shelomo," by Ernest Bloch, the virtuoso "Concerto" by Boccherini or romantic "Serenade" by Tchaikovsky. The latter was a gripping performance - days after the concert, one can still hear the music resounding. The young Croatian pianist Dejan Lazic made his Israeli debut in Eilat and has already proved his reputation as one of the hottest names in classical music today. Whatever he plays, his performance is technically perfect, yet natural, elegant and stylish. The French trio Wanderer presented excellent renditions of pieces by Mendelssohn, Schubert and Brahms. Their sound was well balanced, their sense of style infallible, and on the whole, their performance was hypnotizing. British quartet Arditti, better known for its contemporary music programs (they have more than 160 discs to their credit and scores of pieces, written especially for them), treated the audience to a more traditional repertoire, featuring quartets by Beethoven and Janacek. Their performance was well thought through and most precise, but less emotional. Italian baroque opera ensemble La Veneziana appeared in two programs. The first evening consisted of short vocal pieces by Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643), presented as brief theater scenes. The direction was witty and executed with a good taste, despite modernization. And although not everybody in the audience knew the story of Tancredi or the text of Lament of a Nymph, the drama was all there. The Italians returned next night with a fully staged production of Orfeo. Visually, it was kitsch taken to the extreme, with colorful dresses of singers and orchestra players and grotesque costumes of the underworld's inhabitants. A delight. Prominent Italian countertenor /conductor Claudio Cavina led his musical forces elegantly through a five parts piece, creating an unforgettable evening that crowned the festival. Bottom line: This top-rate chamber music festival needs more attention. Marketing is still its only weak link. There were no billboard advertisements in Eilat on the days of the festival and the guests of the city's many hotels hardly knew about it. That said, the festival atmosphere was excellent - it was really about the music. The audience was entranced - one could tell by the total silence in the concert hall.