Israeli, classical, and free

This annual Independence Day concert by the IDF "gifted musicians" program is a treat.

classical music 88 (photo credit: )
classical music 88
(photo credit: )
As it does every year, the Jerusalem Music Center honors Independence Day with a free festive concert of original Israeli music performed by young musicians, all of them members of the Israel Defence Forces "gifted musicians" program. Starting at 11 a.m. and broadcast live on the Kol Hamusika radio station, the event is one of the few occasions on which Israelis have an opportunity to encounter the good and varied contemporary music being created here. Michael Wolpe, Moshe Zorman and Hezi Chayat, whose works will be played this Wednesday along with those by a cadre of other composers, are part of what Wolpe, head of the composition department at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy, believes to be part of a greater piece: the making of outstanding music from a wide range of works. "Verdi and Beethoven were not the only composers in their times, but they achieved their outstanding achievements not only because of their genius, but because they were part of a very large number of composers . . . quality emerges first and foremost from quantity, since quantity also means experience," Wolpe says. A composer, teacher and member of Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev ("by choice, only by choice"), Wolpe insists that sparks of genius are evident in music that's been written in Israel. However, he says, "most Israelis aren't aware of it, let alone [able to] enjoy the very good stuff created here." While the Independence Day concert might be a drop in the ocean of musical performances, it is an important one for Wolpe and many other local composers. "There are lots of writers and playwrights, and not all of them are that good," Wolpe says. "But from the encounter with them and their works, Israelis have a clue of what is a novel, a play." Like almost all the programming editors at Kol Hamusika, Wolpe believes that continous requests for "young composers" and "premieres" and the absence of repeat performances of Israeli music leave little room for music fans to hear what is currently being written in Israel. "Once a piece is performed at a premiere, you don't hear it anymore at another concert," he says, adding that the major orchestras' emphasis on works by classical European composers also limits the spread of original Israeli music. Nonetheless, Wolpe is optimistic about the potential for growth in Israeli music. "I don't believe in pessimism," he says. "It's too easy. I believe that little by little we can achieve something. For example, we use little alternative stages in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, or special gatherings, like the Negev 'Sounds in the Desert' festival that I created. All these are making their place in the Israeli musical landscape." Wolpe mingles different styles in his music and in the concerts he produces, which typically combine familiar classical, Middle Eastern and Jewish musical motifs with original sounds and works. The concert at mishkanot will open with Wolpe's own Concerto for Flutes. Also on the program: a special arrangement of Israeli songs performed by the Israel Defense Forces String Quartet, and performances by the Jerusalem Young Saxophonists Quartet and by a folk ensemble. Jerusalem Music Center, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Wednesday, May 3, at 11 a.m. Entrance is free.