Small wonders

Familiar favorites and more eclectic programming at the TA Chamber Music Center

Jerusalem Baroque orchestra (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalem Baroque orchestra
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A brief glance at the 2011-2012 season program of the Chamber Music Center in Tel Aviv reveals a roster of names that will leave no true chamber music lover indifferent. The Doric, Ysaye, Carmel and Bennewitz quartets, the Hindemith Quintet, the Jerusalem and Mondrian trios, ensemble Meitar, cellist Zvi Plesser, pianists Michal Tal and Roman Rabinovich, clarinet player Chen Halevi, violinists Hagai Shaham and Itamar Zorman are but a few of the names on the long and impressive list.
“We have two concert series. The major one is dedicated to chamber ensembles and includes 15 concerts; the other consists of six piano recitals, and this year it is dedicated to the music of Debussy,” says Raz Binyamini, the artistic director of the center. There is also a mini-series of lecture/concerts that is very interesting.
In addition, the center is home to three ensembles, namely the Israeli Bach Soloists, the Tel Aviv Soloists and the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra, providing them with rehearsal spaces, ticket and subscriptions sales and other production facilities.
The Israeli Music Conservatory at Shtricker (Tel Aviv), which served as home to the Chamber Music Center since 1988, has been undergoing renovations for the past couple of years, and the music activities were moved to the Enav Center at Gan Ha’ir.
Binyamini has nothing but praise for the small and beautiful concert hall with its fine acoustics, as well as its friendly and professional management, but admits that the Chamber Music Center’s veteran audience yearns to return to its home.
“As of today, it looks as if the opening concert of this year’s season will still be held at Enav, but in January 2012 we hope to be back on Shtricker Street.”
Binyamini promises that “the intimate hall will be the same as it was once, and we hope that the acoustics will be at least as good as it was before the renovations.” The lobby, which was open to the street, will now now open into the back garden and be more spacious, and there will be an underground parking lot. “We will have a smaller hall as well that will also be a recording studio. It will be ideal for ancient and contemporary music concerts and for small recitals,” says Binyamini.
Who attends these concerts? “Five years ago, when I first started working for the music center, the audience consisted mostly of the not-so-young upper middle class music lovers,” says Binyamini. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but I believe that bringing new, younger audiences to concert halls is important. As I later learned from the feedback, young faces among the public add a very special feeling both to the performers on stage and to the people in the concert hall. The numbers vary from concert to concert, but pretty soon there were more than 10 percent young listeners in the hall.”
How did he achieve that? Binyamini explains: “Nowadays, when music lovers, especially the young ones, can get almost everything they want via computer, we should offer less available programs, such as lesser performed pieces or music by young Israeli composers. Also, the musicians on stage and the young people in the audience often come from the same milieu, and there is a special connection between the performers, the music and the listeners. Granted, we sell reducedprice tickets to younger people, and advertising these concerts does not cost us money (which I do not have anyway) – social networks like Facebook work great.”
Binyamini says that although certain people prefer to listen again and again to the same performers playing the same pieces, he believes it is important to keep people updated with what is going in the big world. “I try to bring up-and-coming ensembles that have recently won competition and are making their first appearances on international stages.
So in addition to such renowned ensembles as the Ysaye Quartet, which has appeared here quite often, we bring the Doric Quartet (which has also been here in the past) and the excellent Bennewitz Quartet from the Czech Republic, which continues this country’s beautiful chamber music tradition,” he says.
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