Totally Relevant

A new string ensemble, which makes its debut this week, plans to turn the conventional concert form on its ear.

Relevant violin string ensemble 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Relevant violin string ensemble 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On December 29 Relevant, a new 15-member string ensemble of soloists, will make its premiere appearance at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv.
“The ensemble consists of accomplished young musicians who are tired of being told what to play and how to play,” says veteran Israeli viola player, arranger and music organizer Arie Bar-Droma, the initiator of the ensemble. “We want to do things differently,” he says. “We play without a conductor, and we want to present a repertoire of pieces that are rarely performed or are not performed at all. As a small ensemble, we enjoy our freedom of choice, and we can afford many things that large orchestras can’t.”
Bar-Droma explains that there is a lot of timeless virtuoso music, such as Grieg, Dvorak, Shostakovich, Schnitke, Bloch, which you hardly hear in Israel because large orchestras have no time for it. Also, he says, most conductors have ambitions of leading an orchestra and to draw large symphonic tableaux, while a string group is not enough for them. “We want to perform chamber music and to achieve the highest quality of performance and to create unusual programs, playing everything playable – be it classics, jazz, pop or rock. It has to be written in good taste; the rest is not important.”
Bar-Droma stresses that in his view, separating music into different genres is wrong. “Every composer uses notes, and there are always rhythm and harmony, so what is the difference? The general public does not realize it, and we are going to tell them the truth,” he laughs.
“We’ll give the audience everything – but we will do it our way!” He adamantly believes that the group has every chance for success.
“The ensemble consists of excellent young musicians who got hooked by the idea, such as violinist Gilad Hildesheim, who co-directs the ensemble; violinist Evgenya Epstein, a member of the internationally acclaimed Aviv Quartet; young cellist Adi Schmidt; and another successful cellist Ira Givol, together with his violinist brother, Matan. By the way, all of them have returned from abroad, where they studied and had careers.”
Among the changes that Bar- Droma and his young friends want to bring about are those of programming. “Everybody says it’s time to change the framework of the concert – an overture, a concert and a symphony – but it doesn’t happen. We also think that an intermission between the two parts of a concert is not a must, to put it mildly. People have come to listen to the music and not to stand in line for coffee, which they can drink before or after the performance,” he says.
The musicians in the ensemble don’t play in a seated position but standing in order to achieve a more powerful and stereophonic sound. And the lighting will also be changed to help the audience concentrate on the music.
The program of their first evening features Grieg’s Holberg Suite; Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso and Bloch’s Concerto Grosso, with pianist Vaag Papian joining the group. Bach’s Double Concerto for Two Violins will be followed by Bar-Droma’s jazz paraphrase on the piece.
The Relevant concert takes place on December 29 at the Enav Center, Gan Ha’ir, Tel Aviv. For reservations, call (03) 604-5000.