By MAXIM REIDER
'German music, French music, English music - it's not all really important to me, but rather the correct style of the performance," says German conductor and violinist Frank-Michael Erben of Leipzig, who leads the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra on Tuesday and Saturday in a program featuring pieces by great Leipzig composers Bach, Mendelssohn and Schumann.
"And I probably have a feeling for this kind of music," Erben adds, and for good reason - he has been the concertmaster of the famous Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra since 1987 and the leader of the Gewandhaus String Quartet (founded in 1808). Having played as a soloist under the batons of such conductors as Sir Neville Mariner, Kurt Masur, Herbert Blomstedt and Riccardo Chailly, he knows what he's talking about. "I personally played Mendelsohnn concertos 20 times as a soloist, to say nothing of Mozart, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Bartok," Erben says. "It is also important to mention that it was Mendlsohnn who brought J.S. Bach's music back to the public after so many years of oblivion. And I am happy to bring this music with me on my first visit to Israel."
Erben compares the style of the Gewandhaus Orchestra to red wine, "warm and dark, with most of the playing coming from the strings. We have a long tradition of string-playing in Leipzig, where the first conservatory in Germany was founded."
A BUSY MUSICIAN, Erben says that nowadays he divides his time between his various jobs - in addition to being a soloist and the concertmaster of the Gewandhaus orchestra and the quartet, he also leads an orchestra of his own - the West Saxony Symphony - somehow finding the time to teach both conducting and violin on the side.
Visiting Israel for the first time has been a great pleasure for Erben. "People are so warm and friendly here, be it in a taxi or in a supermarket," he says. "The musicians are devoted and open. I enjoy cooperating with [Herzliya Orchestra Artistic Director] Harvey Bordowitz, and sharing Shabbat evening with his family was a moving unforgettable experience for me."
Emphasizing the partnership between Leipzig and Herzliya, Erben expresses regret that the Gewandhaus Orchestra has never played in Israel, but notes that the situation will be rectified when the Gewandhaus Choir comes to perform in Herzliya later this month. He has also invited Bordowitz to conduct his West Saxony orchestra in Germany next season.
Erben conducts the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra tonight at 8:30 p.m. at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center, Rehov Jabotinsky 15. The Saxon Connection program features The Hebrides Overture and Symphony No. 1, by Mendelssohn, Suite no. 3 for Orchestra, by Bach, and Overture, Scherzo and Finale, by Schumann. The concert is preceded by a lecture from Bordowitz. For reservations call (09) 950-0761.
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