Music: Sounds and looks good

The annual Voice of Music Festival is almost upon us.

Guy Braunstein (photo credit: PR)
Guy Braunstein
(photo credit: PR)
 The 31st edition of the popular classical music gathering will take place at its usual berth of Kfar Blum on July 16 to 20.
The program of the five-day Voice of Music Festival offers plenty of quality entertainment, some big names and intriguing disciplinary projects. The junior side of the classical world is well catered to with the Voice of Music Festival for Children, with child prodigy Alma Deutscher making a return to the Galilee. The 10-year-old British violinist has been composing since she was six. An adaptation of her first opera, Sweeper of Dreams, was featured in last year’s festival. This year she will present her new opera for children, Cinderella. Other youthful fare includes a chamber ensemble rendition of Yoni Rechter’s score based on David Grossman’s children’s book Itamar Meets a Rabbit.
In the last decade or two, the classical music sector has made great efforts to put itself out there and to make itself more accessible to people of all stripes and musical backgrounds and tastes. Last year, Germany-based Israeli violist Avri Levitan brought his Musethica program to Israel. Launched in Spain in 2012, the program is based on the idea of enabling gifted music students to perform on a regular basis for a variety of audiences, principally for people who do not typically attend traditional classical music events for a variety of reasons. The concerts comprise top-class chamber music, from solo performances to octet formats, and constitute a basic and invaluable part of the education of the young musicians, who receive no fee for their stage work. As part of this year’s Voice of Music Festival, Levitan and his troupe will perform at various places for people who are unable to get to Kfar Blum, including at senior citizens’ homes, hospitals and facilities for children with special needs.
The foreign star turn at this year’s festival is 27-year-old South Korean pianist Sunwook Kim, who rose to international stardom in 2006 when he won the Leeds Competition. There is plenty of homegrown talent as well, with the likes of violinists Guy Braunstein, Amihai Grosz and Kobi Rubinstein, violist Itamar Ringel and harpsichordist Shalev Ad-El.
New York-based 29-year-old violinist Itamar Zorman is also on the Kfar Blum roster. He will join forces with pianist Kim and clarinetist Chen Halevy for a rendering of Bartok’s Contrasts.
Zorman will also appear with Belarus-born US-based pianist Liza Stepanova in a rendition of Messiaen’s Variations for Violin and Piano. The two also perform around the world, together with cellist Michael Katz, as members of the Lysander Piano Trio.
Zorman comes from excellent musical stock. His father is acclaimed composer Moshe Zorman, and his mother is pianist Astrith Baltsan who, in 1995 established a revolutionary multidisciplinary approach to presenting classical music that incorporates storytelling, multimedia and all kinds of musical styles. Baltsan will also be on duty at Kfar Blum on July 19 when she fills the roles of pianist and narrator at her Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – Eternal Romance show. The repertoire takes in works by Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy and 20th-century Italian interdisciplinary pianist, violinist, composer and technological innovator Marino Marini.
Considering his domestic backdrop, it comes as no surprise to learn that Zorman did not wait too long before laying his infant fingers on a small version of the instrument.
“I started on violin – I think it was a 1/8 size one – at the age of six,” he recalls. “My parents wanted me to play some instrument or other. I think it is a wonderful means of training and education for children. I always liked the sound of the violin, and I also wanted to learn something about their world [of classical music].”
Progress was duly made, and around bar mitzva age Zorman started taking the violin seriously.
“At that point, my parents didn’t need to remind me to practice anymore. I was really into it by then,” he explains, adding that he had a particular weakness for compositions by Brahms and Schubert. More contemporary works also helped to fire the youngster’s imagination.
“I also liked pieces from the 20th century. Having a composer father helped with that,” he says.
While accepting that music fans will generally be drawn to the tried and tested offerings of the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mozart, Zorman believes that the public can be introduced to works that feed off more here-and-now sensibilities.
“I think there are plenty of quality things that the audience can understand, and works that are strongly connected to today’s world, which are now being written, which can be appreciated,” he observes.
It is largely down to Zorman and his contemporaries to help widen the consumer’s musical horizons and open our ears and heart to tones, textures and energies fueled by present-day zeitgeist.
“I don’t know if it is my job to educate people, but I like 21st -century music, and I believe it is important to expose the audience to these works. I think the public is capable of taking in contemporary material, even in a pure format,” he says.
That said, the young violinist has no problem with people who prefer to settle in for a relatively cozy ride, with pieces such as Handel’s WATER MUSIC or the Brandenburg Concertos.
“It’s perfectly legitimate for anyone to do that, but I also believe that with a good performance – and often contemporary works are not performed well – there are people who will be drawn to things they don’t recognize,” he says.
Voice of Music Festival artistic director, cellist Zvi Plesser, is clearly of a similar mind and has spread his directorial net far and wide in devising a multifarious lineup for this year’s event that should appeal to an eclectic range of tastes and interests. Over the five days, patrons will be able to enjoy poetry and literature readings; a choreography-enhanced rendition of Schubert’s Andante con moto from his String Quartet no. 14 in D minor, with Plesser among the instrumentalists; and a Classical Meets Jazz spot featuring the trio of cross-disciplinary pianist and conductor Yaron Gottfried, bassist Yorai Oron and drummer Rony Holan, as well as soprano Einat Aronstein.
Add to that the Kaleidoscope Concert for Children (and parents), an intriguing live-screened musical meeting with Braunstein and Plesser playing against a backdrop of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, and an off-campus rock show at the Galil Mountains Winery at Kibbutz Yiron with Aviv Geffen & The Tauyot, and you have yourself something of an all-round sensory and pleasurable experience in store.
The Voice of Music Festival takes place on July 16 to 20 in Kfar Blum. For information about accommodation: (04) 690-0052 (Kfar Giladi Hotel); (04) 683-6611 (Pastoral Hotel, Kfar Blum); and (04) 681-6001 (Hagoshrim Hotel). For tickets and more information about the Voice of Music Festival: and [email protected]