‘With all due respect to modern media, nothing could be compared to a live performance, to the intimate contact with the audience in a concert hall and to its immediate reaction to the music making on the stage.” Yuval Ben Ozer, the founder and the artistic director of the Israeli Vocal Ensemble, sounds enthusiastic on the eve of the groups Romantic Voice concerts taking place April 11 and 12 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
“This will be already our second subscription concert. Due to the coronavirus limitations, we were forced to compress the entire season program to five months. Our first concert after the ‘Big Cultural Drought’ took place a few weeks ago – and the audience’s reaction was exceptional,” said Ben Ozer.
Despite the long break in performing, the choir members didn’t sit in despair during the drought season with their mouths tightly shut.
“All this time, with the exception of the lockdown periods, we kept rehearsing so we wouldn’t lose our professional shape. We worked on new programs and even performed two online concerts, not to let down our devoted audience,” said Ben Ozer.
He added that due to impossibility to perform live, the ensemble, to reach its listeners at home, was forced to approach the most advanced digital tools.
“We livestream our concerts, which are available to our subscription holders on our new web site. I believe that quality-wise, our broadcasts are as good of those by the renowned Mezzo TV channel. We have 10 mikes, six cameras – I think that if not the ‘corona’ we wouldn’t have invested such a huge amount of money in this project, but now we keep up with the times. Although the corona limitations are behind us, there still are people who for some reason are unable to attend our concerts. Now, they can enjoy the music as it is being performed – not only in Israel, but all over the world.
“Our web site ‘virtual concert hall’ features various programs – concerts, podcasts, and lectures, dedicated to choral music, to such music forms as requiem, mass and more. Every two weeks we offered to our audience something new and the programs were warmly received by listeners at home.”
The upcoming concert program features choral gems by the great composers of 19th-century Europe: Brahms, Schumann, Schubert, Rossini and Elgar. Last but not least – Arnold Schoenberg’s moving piece Peace on Earth will receive its long awaited Israeli premiere.
BEN OZER, who never misses an opportunity to spread his vast knowledge of music, explains that “the Romantic movement in art and philosophy emphasized the emotions and desires of the individual... the choral music flourished and rose in quality.”
Speaking about Schoenberg’s piece, the conductor says that “this is a post-Romantic opus, which was written just before the composer switched to serial music. It is based on a poem by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer and has a lot to do with the fact that approximately at that time Schoenberg adopted Christianity. ‘Peace on Earth’ is a sort of idyll, an earning for peace. It has obvious connotations with the New Testament and the peace is seen as the Divine imperative. Schoenberg wrote his piece in 1907, before the end of the Age of Innocence and it feels. ‘Peace on Earth’ is one of the most difficult choral pieces to perform, and this is why it was first presented at a concert only four years after being composed.
“Nowadays, this piece is widely performed in Europe, but it has never been performed in Israel in the form it was originally written, that is, a capella. That said, years ago it was sang by a small students’ group accompanied by an orchestra.”
Ben Ozer concludes: “Despite being complicated, ‘Peace on Earth’ is a moving and captivating piece, which simply grips you by the throat and never lets you go.”
Most of the program is conducted by Ben Ozer yet, following the ensemble’s tradition, a young and promising singer/conductor Guy Pelc has been invited to lead Schoenberg’s piece. The vocalists will be accompanied by pianist Pazit Gal.
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