Riffing with Donald

The annual Israeli Music Festival offers free concerts around the country

Riffing with Donald (photo credit: ELI TAL EL)
Riffing with Donald
(photo credit: ELI TAL EL)
We have much to celebrate in these here parts – not least our musical endeavor.
That has been evident over the last 21 years from the cutting-edge classical and related works that have been performed as part of the annual Israeli Music Festival.
The next edition takes place September 12-17, with free concerts dotted around the country, taking in concerts in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Zichron Ya’acov, under the aegis of new artistic director and renowned composer Oded Zehavi, and supported by the Israel Music Institute and the Culture and Sport Ministry.
The event, inter alia, is a vehicle for promoting locally created works, and generally features the cream of Israeli classical and contemporary ensembles and artists. This year’s sixdayer includes the likes of the Meitar Ensemble, the Israel Contemporary Players and the Israel Contemporary String Quartet. The cast of stellar soloists takes in soprano opera singer Hila Bajio, pianist and educator Yaron Rosenthal and cellist Rivka Golani.
The festival traditionally offers a broad cross section of Israeli music, and this year’s program includes fullblown symphonic works by revered local composers such as Paul Ben- Haim, Mark Kopytman and Andre Hajdu, as well as by Noam Sheriff, who died earlier this week, alongside here and now creators the likes of Yossi Mar-Haim, Amos Elkana, Udi Pearlman, Rali Margalit and former festival artistic director Boaz Ben Moshe. Some of the latter were especially commissioned by the festival.
As Its Name Suggests, Avner Hanani’s Trump Sonata feeds off contemporary current affairs. The 44-year-old pianist-composer marries his keyboard expertise with the utterances by the then-US presidential candidate. When it comes to everyday theatricals, Hanani could hardly have chosen a better sparring partner, but in Hanani’s hands and penned magic, Trump comes across as a willing and able musical sidekick.
Take, for example, Good Time, the first of the sonata’s six movements. As Hanani reels off his sonorous trills, Trump intones such phrases as “he’s not going to run” mocking, as is his wont, his would-be or actual critics. It comes across as a nip-and-tuck close harmony effort.
Like many of us, politic leanings notwithstanding, Hanani says he was drawn to Trump’s persona. “I found myself reading about him and listening to him – funny moments and others.”
As a musician, Hanani did not just note the mogul-cum-politician’s facial features, statements and gesticulating. “There were places where sort of sound samples jumped out at me. Then I heard other things he said, which were much better, more suitable for my work.”
Over the past decade or two, Hanani has gained an international reputation for playing and producing works of rich lyrical content. Leading contemporary composer Steve Reich said of the Israeli’s output: “They strike me as the work of an extremely talented young man with a very fluent and polished compositional technique.” That’s quite a feather in Hanani’s creator’s cap.
Hanani was drawn to Trump’s oratorical skills, as well as his demeanor. “I liked the bits when he didn’t use a teleprompter. All the bits I selected are when he didn’t have a teleprompter. You can see he is extemporizing. That’s great. It’s good to work with that.”
Speech is generally unplanned, unscored, sonic output. That can make it a good solid foundation for overlaying melodic lines. “At the end of the first part, for example, when he says ‘I love you. I love you,’ the music is there and he carries on talking, that’s sort of like a musical, when someone sings and then they speak a few words. You can play around with that.”
And play around Hanani does indeed. “I need to decide which parts to repeat, which to bring out,” he says. “It’s all part of the composing process.”
Members of the audience will be able to listen to Hanani’s playing while they view Trump’s electioneering gems on a large screen at the back of the stage. Trump is generally considered a love him or loathe him chap, but it’s a fair bet that few before Hanani considered his musical gifts.
Entry to concerts is free but requires prior registration, from August 5. For more information: www.imi.org.il and www.bimot.co.il