Festival Review: Spring Festival

Spring Festival, Kfar Blum, March 23-25.

ISRAELI INDIE duo Maya Belsitzman and Matan Ephrat. (photo credit: GIL SHANI)
ISRAELI INDIE duo Maya Belsitzman and Matan Ephrat.
(photo credit: GIL SHANI)
There can be few cultural and leisure experiences more exhilarating and enjoyable than popping up north, to Kfar Blum, for the Spring Festival, which took place at the Upper Galilee kibbutz last weekend.
For starters this is the ideal time of year to catch the countryside in all its spring floral finery. Mustard flowers abound, the citrus fruit trees have begun to perfume the air with their intoxicating scent, and there is plenty of water flowing in and around the foothills of the Golan Heights. And, if you take the trouble to climb up a few hundred meters above sea level, in the direction of Mount Hermon, you can catch carpets of flowers, in their full multihued glory, that are on the wane – or may even have gone for the year – lower down.
But, of course, it was for the Spring Festival that we spent three-and-a-half hours on the road, and artistic director Zvi Plesser put together a varied program to keep the packed audiences duly entertained and engrossed.
The festival was subtitled Cellisimo – hardly surprising, considering Plesser largely makes a living as a classical cellist, and he put out an intriguing lineup of instrumentalists, taking in veterans Hillel Tzeri and Simcha Kheled, as well as wunderkind Danielle Ekta – all of 14 years old – and Maya Belsitzman. The latter is probably best known as an exponent of rock-pop material, generally in the company of life partner rock drummer Matan Ephrat.
The two performed to a full house, on Friday evening, with the cellist giving her all on a string of rock-infused readings of Israeli golden oldies, plus some originals, adding mellifluous vocals to her energetic bowing. There were even the odd avant garde-leaning slots, which enhanced the mainstream sonic output.
On Friday afternoon Belsitzman, Tzeri and Plesser took part in a panel discussion, at which they regaled us with tales of some of the tribulations endured by the globe-trotting cellist, and how they go about their artistic business.
That was followed by a recital which featured Kheled and Ekta’s rendition of Barriere’s Duo in G Major, with pianist Revital Hachamov joining the fray on Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, while Chopin’s Sonata op. 65 in G Minor added some romantic interest to the proceedings.
The second encore, a jolly delivery of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” left us all with smiles on our faces.
The three-dayer closed with the Cellisimo concert, which featured all the aforementioned cellists, as well as Hachamov, who put in several stints at the festival. The final program opened with Ekta and Hachamov putting in a robust performance of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, before the artistic expression element took a more mature and dulcet turn when Plesser, Tzeri and IPO principal cellist Emmanuelle Silvestre joined forces – ably supported by Hachamov – on Requiem for 3 Cellos and Piano op. 66 by 19th century Jewish Czech composer David Popper.
The weekend program closed out with a cello tour de force, when Belsitzman joined the above three cellists on a delightful and evocative reading of Piazzolla’s La Muerte del Angel. The audience was so taken with the final slot that the foursome was moved to repeat it as an encore, which drew rapturous applause.
And if the music, rustic surroundings and abundant repasts at the Pastoral Hotel were not quite enough to caress the heartstrings, excite and push mundane concerns firmly to one side, try a massage at the hotel spa. That puts lashes of icing on the Kfar Blum cake.