From Bach to Gershwin – on marimba

Percussionist Chen Zimbalista brings fresh rhythm to every kind of music.

Chen Zimbalista 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Chen Zimbalista 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
’Ienjoy listening to all kinds of music, as long as it is properly composed and well performed,” says internationally acclaimed Israeli percussionist Chen Zimbalista on the eve of his Rhythm, Tango, Piano concert in which he hosts Carni Postel (cello, vocals) and Jose Gallardo (piano). “From this, it was just one step to performing music of various genres, and this is the idea behind this particular concert and the entire series. For me, as a percussionist with classical background, it was not difficult to befriend many musical styles. As long as music is emotional and moving, the style does not matter – it can be rock, jazz, Mizrahi, whatever.”
The concert program swings from Bach to Gershwin and includes music by Piazzola, Balakirev, Zimbalista himself.
Speaking about his guests, Zimbalista explains that “Carni Postel just sits on the stage and emanates positive energy. This is what probably made it easy to find a common ground with her songs and with her music and to create together.”
Zimbalista has been collaborating with pianist Jose Gallardo for about 10 years.
“Gallardo is an Argentinean-born classical pianist who makes Germany his home. He plays chamber music with the likes of Gideon Kremer, he records for EMI and teaches at the Yehudi Menuhin Music School. We recently recorded a disk of pieces by Astor Piazzola and Brazilian music and will inaugurate it at our upcoming concerts.”
Zimbalista says that his audience is quite varied. “There are people who seek action and rhythm on stage, and there are others who are curious to hear how Bach sounds on marimba and what Menachem Wiesenberg and Zimbalista are able to do together.
Nowadays, people are more prepared to accept these less conventional interpretations and crossovers.”
Playing percussion was Zimbalista’s childhood dream, but his family, not seeing drums as a serious instrument, forced him to teach classical piano which, luckily enough, has never stopped him. He started his professional career at 16, filling in for the Israeli Philharmonic percussionist who was summoned for reserve duty during the First Lebanon War.
“It was a dream come true, in many ways due to my teacher Alon Bor,” he says. Becoming a soldier himself, he played drums in a Romanian restaurant when he was on leave. “I played Gypsy and Romanian music with wonderful folk musicians, and I knew I could have done it for money my entire life and enjoy it; but deep inside I yearned for communication with the audience, and that was what pushed me to the then unknown territory to become a soloist and to start playing chamber music on marimba, which in those days was still unusual.”
Zimbalista says he plays marimba four to six hours every day. “To play Bach on marimba and to sound logical is not simple, and sometimes the technique itself is the challenge. But what attracts me most is the combination of percussion and melody. Because the marimba is an instrument from which you can extract any sound you want, every melody, romantic and tender as it could be. It has enough colors for everything.”
Chen Zimbalista, Carni Postel and Jose Gallardo perform their varied crossover program on November 11 at the Ra’anana Music Center (09) 746-4036 and on November 13 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (03) 607-7070. The concerts start at 8:30 p.m.