Red Sea Classical hits 10

Maestro Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera House Orchestra and Choir return to Eilat.

Maestro Valerie Gergiev 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Maestro Valerie Gergiev 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
Next week (January 6-8), the Red Sea Classical Festival in Eilat marks its first decade of successful endeavor with a typically robust program. Over the last 10 years Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has overseen most of the artistic content and wielded the baton over the Mariinsky Opera House Orchestra and Choir in spacious Hangar 6 of the port city.
This year’s agenda opens with the music from Sergei Prokofiev’s stirring two-part operaWar and Peace, based on the Tolstoy novel. The expansive performance (at 9 p.m.), with Gergiev on the podium, involves more than 200 participants, including 60 vocalists and a full orchestra.
The first concert on the second day sees Justus Frantz conducting Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana (1 p.m.), with Gergiev returning for the evening performance (9:30 p.m.) of Verdi’s Requiem. The last day of the festival opens with Gergiev conducting Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (2 p.m.), while the Mariinsky Opera Choir will be in full voice for the closing program of works by such composers as Rachmaninoff, Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Andrei Petrenko will direct onstage events for the 8:30 p.m. concert.
While the musical activities in the cavernous 2,400-capacity Hangar 6 are very much on a grand scale, each year the festival also includes an entertaining program of chamber music performances in a 350-seat hall at the King Solomon Hotel. “They are much more intimate than the symphonic concerts,” observes Ilan Rechtman, who assumed responsibility for the festival’s chamber music program time this year. “The first concert [entitled A Cello Celebration] is quite a large affair, but the other four are based on a small format.”
Since his return to Israel after a two decade-plus sojourn in the States, pianist Rechtman has made his mark on the local music scene as both a player and a content manager. In the latter area he is best known in his role as artistic director of the chamber music series at the Museum of Tel Aviv, a position he has filled since 2008. It was there that Rechtman introduced a new dimension to the musical proceedings, which will also be employed in Eilat.
“It’s a sort of multimedia thing with two-minute documentary film clips before each work,” he explains. “The clips have short interview with the composer or maybe the main performing artist, who talk about themselves or about the work. I think that adds information for the audience in an entertaining way.”
Mind you, the audiovisual element did not go initially go down too well with everyone. “In the first year, I got some very angry reactions to the clips from some of the hardcore people in the audience. I even got threats and loads of complaints. Some people demanded my resignation.
Thankfully, things settled down in Rechtman’s second season in Tel Aviv and the clips are now an integral part of the program in Tel Aviv – as they will be in Eilat this year, which will also convey the names of the different movements.
The Cello Celebration concert features 12 cellists and soprano Alla Vasilevitsky, a recent olah from the FSU who appeared in Rechtman’s series in Tel Aviv earlier this year.
Vasilevitsky and the dozen instrumentalists will perform a program of works by various composers, including Bach, Villa- Lobos and Casals.
The chamber music program also incorporates all five Beethoven sonatas for cello and piano.
Rechtman is also doing his best to promote local talent by including premieres of works by three Israeli composers – Jan Rajinsky, Shulamit Ran and Rechtman himself. There will also be a work by Israeli composer-pianist Menahem Wisenberg, who will join forces with cellist Zvi Plesser on Saturday for the 5 p.m. recital of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 1 in F Major for Piano and Cello, Rajinsky’s Sonata No. 1 for Piano and Cello, and Schumann’s Fantasy in C.

For more information about the Red Sea Classical Festival: