Lift off with Tur Bonet's violin concert

This will be the second edition of the festival whose header alludes to the fact that women are front and center across the programmatic spread.

 LINA TUR BONET will serve as both conductor and soloist. (photo credit: PABLO F. JUÁREZ)
LINA TUR BONET will serve as both conductor and soloist.
(photo credit: PABLO F. JUÁREZ)

Let’s face it, classical music concerts can be visually demanding and, hence, sometimes keeping one’s concentration focused can be a challenge. Yes, there is the unparalleled magic of hearing a score come to life right before your very eyes and ears, but there isn’t generally a whole lot happening on the stage, is there? Then again you may not have caught Lina Tur Bonet in full fiddling flow. 

That can be remedied on September 10 at 8:30 p.m. by popping along to the Zucker Hall, at Tel Aviv’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium, when the Spanish virtuoso violinist takes the stage with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra (JBO) on the opening evening of the five-day Witches? Festival. Or, if you don’t live in Tel Aviv, you can catch the same program on the morrow, at 8 p.m., at the YMCA in Jerusalem.

This will be the second edition of the festival whose header alludes to the fact that women are front and center across the programmatic spread. The curtain raiser is called “A Queen without a Queenship,” referencing Christina who ascended to the Swedish throne in 1632 and controversially abdicated 22 years later. Queen Christina had her opponents, in religious and political circles, but she was a great patron of the arts. Hence her mention in the Witches? proceedings. 

There is also the matter of the titular question mark. And why the sorceress moniker? That leads us to the heart of the thematic matter. The JBO, and its founder, musical director, conductor and harpsichordist David Shemer, thought it was high time someone saluted female composers who, in years gone by, were frozen out of the profession by male-dominated society. 

From the Renaissance era, women who wrote classical music frequently did so under an assumed masculine name or anonymously and, it seems, wisely so. On more than occasion women who, despite the hostility of the patriarchal world around them, continued to try their hand at fields of endeavor such as medical work and research, and were caught in the act, were branded witches and summarily executed. 

Lina Tur Bonet  (credit: PABLO F. JUÁREZ)Lina Tur Bonet (credit: PABLO F. JUÁREZ)

Thankfully the only “danger” Tur Bonet will be in when she performs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will probably be having to return to the stage at the concert to take yet another bow from a no doubt enthused audience.

The Spaniard, on her forthcoming return appearance with the JBO, will serve as both conductor and soloist in renditions of works by Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Corelli and Handel. But she is not a baroque purist, and her taste range is far from catholic. Over her two-decade-plus career to date, she has dipped into numerous areas of sonic styles and genres, including the JBO’s stated field of musical interest, romantic works and contemporary compositions. 

Tur Bonet fills soloist spot

A FEW HOURS after our telephone tete-a-tete to Spain, Tur Bonet was due to fill the soloist spot in a concert that took in a work by Vivaldi as well as a score by 20th-century Argentinean nuevo tango composer Astor Piazzolla. She says that genre arc is natural for her, and is the result of her voracious appetite for music per se. “There are so many composers who I love that I couldn’t avoid to be with one or the other,” she laughs.

Tur Bonet comes across as someone who has always seen the world through her own wondering eyes, and striven to carve her singular route through the intricacies of life, and her chosen art form. I was surprised to hear that she did not get up and running on violin until relatively late. 

“I lived in a small town and there were no violin teachers there, so I was 13 or 14 when I started taking proper lessons,” she recalls. “But, you know, everyone has a different path. People say that if you don’t start playing when you are six or three, or whatever, it is too late.” 

As is her sunny wont, Tur Bonet prefers to look at the upside of the chronology equation and sees the benefits of just enjoying one’s earliest years without being burdened with the discipline of hours of daily instrumental practice. “I realized there were also some nice things about beginning a bit later. Then you are more conscious of things, and also you have a childhood and you can take a lot of experiences from that. For me, that gave me a different relationship to music, which I really appreciate today.” 

That sounds like a natural, healthy way to go about things and, anyway, the teenager rapidly made up for lost time. “Everything went really quick for me, with music,” she notes. “The important thing is not to listen to people who say, ‘if you don’t do this or that in this way, you are never going to make it.’ There are so many different ways of doing things. Everyone has his or her moment.”

Grabbing her moment

TUR BONET has become adept at grabbing her moments and infusing her live performances with her own spirit, and the simple joy of playing music. That involves putting her soul and her entire body – not just her arms, hands and fingers, into her instrumental work. 

Before she began taking the violin seriously, she engaged in all kinds of wholesome activities, including dance and gymnastics. Her onstage work has spiritual and corporeal dynamism written all over it. 

“I think the body is something very important for an instrumentalist,” she states. “I think it is very interesting, the relationship of musicians to their body.”

Tur Bonet’s relationship with the scores she plays marries studious engagement with the notes on the sheet in front of her, with added room for personal maneuver. “With baroque music, we do a lot of improvisation, of course in a baroque way, as jazz musicians do in a jazz way. I think freedom in music is something really important. But, you know, some people think that when you talk about freedom in music, that if you are free when you play you are not very rigorous or not taking it so seriously. 

“Actually it is the other way round. If you want to be free, you have to create the frame for that. That frame can give you so much freedom. When you know what you are doing, and why you are doing it, then you can really fly.”

Buckle up. It’s lift-off time.

For tickets and more information about the Witches? Festival: (02) 671-5888 and https://www.jbo.co.il/the-jerusalem-baroque-orchestra/