Marimba Magic

Israeli soloist Ziv Eitan plays up a musical storm.

Israeli soloist Ziv Eitan 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli soloist Ziv Eitan 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
‘Sometimes people come up to me after a performance and say, ‘We don’t understand much about music, but what you did moved us,’” says marimba player Ziv Eitan, who will present a concert for kids and the entire family on Saturday at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. “But there’s nothing to understand about music; you either manage to reach your audience’s heart or you don’t.
And I always try to find a rendition of my own, to be communicative.”
Speaking in a break between rehearsals, Eitan, in his characteristic frenetic tempo, says he almost never rests, playing throughout the country and around the world.
“I appear abroad a lot as a cultural ambassador of Israel, like the Philharmonic Orchestra or the Batsheva Dance Ensemble; but, unlike them, I appeal not only to a sophisticated high-brow audience but to a simpler public, both young and old. Just recently, I performed in India, Berlin, the US, Hong Kong and Turkey, where people were buying my disks like hot cakes. These are all Foreign Ministry-supported tours,” he says.
But Eitan also plays throughout Israel, performing for everyone, be it adults or children, in Beit She’an, Tel Aviv or beyond the Green Line.
“I can play in a kindergarten in the morning, perform solo with an orchestra, and then continue to a nightclub,” he says.
And one has to admit hat Eitan’s concerts are a musical hurricane, which pulls you in and never lets you go.
“I address my music to a wide audience, both old and young. A man in his 60s can listen to it in his car and enjoy it, just as a kid enjoys it. But it has to be quality music. I rehearse 10 hours a day, and I’m constantly learning from everybody and everything.”
Marimba is usually associated with traditional music, but that is not exactly true. Coming from a classical background, Eitan studied at music academies in Israel, Denmark and the US. He recalls that in his early years he was a lonely child. “I would walk around with my CD player, with Mahler, Schubert, Brahms, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Bartok being my only childhood friends.”
In many ways, this has defined and widened his repertoire.
“Since there was not enough quality music for the marimba, I went to the classical pieces, and I perform arrangements on my instrument. The marimba is a universal instrument. It allows you to unleash your energy, but it can sing like a cello or a violin.
I recently performed Khachaturian’s violin concerto, and I played those of Bartok and Prokofiev in the past, not to mention Bach’s partitas. And I play a fragment from his chaconne in my children’s concerts.”
He goes on to explain that the different method of sound production on violin and marimba simply does not matter. “That’s just a technical aspect. You either play well or badly, that’s it.”
Israeli composers, such as Tzach Drori, Yoseph Bardanashvili, Ronen Shapira and Gil Shohat, do not hesitate to write music for him. “They know they will receive the best performance possible,” says Eitan, who recently performed a new concerto by Drori with two different orchestras in Germany. “And maybe one day in Israel, too,” he sighs.
“Working with Drori, we created a trance piece, built on classical principles. There is a theme that develops, and so on.”
Eitan’s children’s programs are not something he has created once and forever and now plays like an old LP, which repeats the same musical phrase – far from it. Among his newest additions is music from various countries and peoples, as well as pop music from the 1970s.
At the end of the concert, Eitan invites the children and their parents to join him. While he leads on marimba, they accompany him on everything that can make a sound, from cow bells to dried hedgehog’s jawbones.
A fantastic experience not to be missed.
Ziv Eitan performs at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and August 25 at 5:30 p.m.. For reservations: (03) 607-7020.