Keeping it contemporary

The 21st Century Ensemble opens its 20th season.

The 21st Century Ensemble 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The 21st Century Ensemble 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
This is our 20th season. These 19 years have passed so fast,” says composer Dan Yuhas, the founder and artistic director of the 21st Century Ensemble, which opens its season on October 30 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The concert will be repeated at the Jerusalem Music Center the following evening, with a live broadcast on the Voice of Music station.
“But now we finally see the fruits of our labor. I believe that our activity has laid the groundwork for various contemporary music ensembles in this country. The entire attitude toward contemporary music in Israel has changed, a new and devoted and international artists see it as important to appear in Israel. Also our ensemble is invited to festivals in Warsaw, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland – these are professional festivals that are dedicated to contemporary music and not to promoting Israeli achievements,” stresses Yuhas.
This modest, soft-spoken man has many reasons to celebrate. Much has changed during the last 20 years since he returned from his sabbatical in Paris with a clear understanding that “It is time to stop being provincial in everything concerning contemporary music.”
As a result, the 21st Century Ensemble (Israel Contemporary Players is its other name) was born, and in the years since has premiered most of the important 20th-century pieces written in Israel and abroad, bringing some of the best conductors and soloists in the field to the growing Israeli audience.
In addition, several years ago the ensemble founded Hateiva, an intimate concert hall in Jaffa that serves as its home. The ensemble rehearses there and performs special programs and hosts young contemporary music ensembles, providing them with promotional services and exposing them to their audience. About 50 concerts are performed at Hateiva every year, and even the best local soloists, who usually perform traditional repertoires, appear there with contemporary pieces.
The ensemble’s 20th season features five concerts, and Yuhas says it is better than ever: “We commissioned pieces from Israeli composers, both veteran and young, for every concert.”
In the opening concert there will be a piece by Joseph Bardanashvili for bassoon and ensemble. It was written especially for Richard Paley, a member of the founding group of the ensemble. Other pieces commissioned for this season include works by Hanah Ajiashvili, Ofer Pelz (a young Paris-based composer), Shulamit Ran, Yinam Leef and Yuhas himself.
The opening program also features pieces by Eotvos and Genoël von Lilienstern. “The latter is very popular in Europe,” says Yuhas.
“A star attraction of the evening will probably be Marco Blaauw, one of the Europe’s best trumpet players, who will perform Berio’s Sequenza No.10 and Concerto for trumpet and ensemble, written by Panisello for Blaauw, who plays the double-bell trumpet,” says Yuhas.
Holding the baton will be the ensemble’s chief conductor for the past 15 years, maestro Zsolt Nagy, who is very busy conducting all over the world but “has never canceled a single performance in Israel, no matter what the situation is,” says Yuhas.

Opening concert, October 30 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. October 31 at the Jerusalem Music Center. More information: