Mixing things up at Kfar Blum

The Voice of Music Festival has long been a leading fixture in our classical music calendar.

FRENCH VIOLIST Lise Berthaud (photo credit: NEDA NAVAEE)
(photo credit: NEDA NAVAEE)
The Voice of Music Festival has long been a leading fixture in our classical music calendar. In fact, the event has been going great guns for a full 35 years, with the forthcoming edition due to take place at its perennial berth of Kfar Blum, in the Upper Galilee, July 9-16.
Long-serving artistic director and cellist Zvi Plesser has, as usual, put together an eclectic roster that takes in works from across the classical spectrum, including usual suspects like Bach’s Chaconne, Haydn’s Quartet in D major, Schubert’s String Quartet No. 13 and Mendelssohn’s Octet in E flat major. But there are plenty of less mainstream offerings and a bunch of contemporary works, such as 20th-century Armenian composer Arno Babajanian’s Piano trio in F sharp minor, and Quartetoukan’s “When Bialik and Fairuz Meet,” which features Christian Arab vocalist Miriam Toukan, oud player and flamenco guitarist Idan Toledano, cellist Rachely Galay, who specializes in Jewish music, and Noa Vax, whose percussive work takes her across various domains of ethnic music.
As each year, next week’s festival stars a host of foreign leading lights of the classical music scene, with Lise Berthaud among those making a working visit to the Upper Galilee. The 36-year-old French violist will be kept gainfully employed at Kfar Blum, and will take part in seven concerts during the week. Her appearances include the July 11 performance of Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F major – aka American Quartet, George Enescu’s Octet for strings in C major, a berth in the Serenade Lemonade illustrated concert for children based on Brahms’s String Sextet No. 1 in B flat major, and Piano Quartet in A minor by 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquin Turina.
The latter is one of several highly varied works that make up the program of the innovative Rooms slot, whereby several concerts take place simultaneously at the Charles Clore Center, with patrons free to roam between the different auditoriums.
BERTHAUD BEGAN playing violin at the age of five, and says she got off to a good start. “My parents were in an amateur choir, and they heard about a fantastic violin teacher in the local music school. It is so important to have a great teacher at the very beginning,” she notes.
Serendipity then stepped in, and Berthaud moved on to her current instrument five years later. “When I was 10 at the Lyon conservatory, they needed a violist to play chamber music or in an orchestra, so they offered the violin players violas and also a viola course.” It was a fortunate turn of events for all concerned, “I immediately preferred the viola and, after one year, I quit the violin without any regrets. I felt so much more comfortable with this instrument,” Berthaud explains.
The youngster eventually got the chance to strut her stuff for a living.
“My first concert was a recital in the church at my parents’ village,” she recalls. It was something of an icebreaker all round. “It was the first concert ever in this church, and probably the first time people heard classical music,” Berthaud laughs.
A couple of years later and she felt her career die was well and truly cast. “I was 16 when I was accepted to the Conservatory of Paris, so I had already no doubt that I would do this as professional.”
Over the years the violist has dipped into all areas of classical endeavor, across a wide range of styles and eras. As far as she is concerned it is basically just a matter of performing to the best of her ability, and being true to the score. “For me, I have the same approach with classical or contemporary music. In the end you have to serve the composer – whether they are dead or alive.”
The French violist also likes to keep her professional options open. “I like to combine my musical life with solo work and chamber music, and also some teaching,” she says. It all makes for a happy working day. “It’s so great for me to do those three things.”
Berthaud has also been able to pick the brains of the some of the greats of the past century or so. “I had the chance to practice with [French composer] Henri Dutilleux and [now 93-year-old] Hungarian composer György Kurtág. And in my studies I worked a lot with [62-year-old French pianist] Pierre-Laurent Aimard. He is really a specialist [in contemporary music].”
While the violist will have her work cut out for her at Kfar Blum next week, she is confident she will be able to handle it all. “I am really excited to be coming [to the Voice of Music Festival] for the first time, and it is just my second time in Israel. The program is huge, but I have played everything before, so no new pieces for me.”
Elsewhere in the Voice of Music lineup, there are works by 83-year-old Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, 62-year-old Tunisian oud player Anouar Brahem and Romanian-born Israeli composer and ethnomusicologist André Hajdu.
For tickets and more information: www.kol-hamusica.org.il