Galileo Galileo! ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ celebrated by Israeli Vocal Ensemble

Yuval Rabin plays a broad organ repertoire, “from the Middle Ages to contemporary music.

THE ISRAELI VOCAL Ensemble and Yuval Rabin. (photo credit: NIV SHIMON)
THE ISRAELI VOCAL Ensemble and Yuval Rabin.
(photo credit: NIV SHIMON)
 The Israeli Vocal Ensemble is celebrating its 25 anniversary with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” concert, which features music from Antonin Dvorak to Freddy Mercury. The program includes Dvorak’s Mass in D Major in its original version for organ, soloists and choir, as well as “Moravian Duets” by the same composer, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Freddy Mercury and pieces for organ solo.
In the current concert program, Israeli soloists and a successful Israeli organ player, Yuval Rabin, joins the ensemble led by its founder and music director, Yuval Benozer.
Among all the instruments Rabin plays, organ is the one with which he identifies most “as a person, I would say,” confides the musician in a phone interview from Switzerland on the eve of his performance with the ensemble.
“For organ, maybe more than for any other instrument, we have so much music from the Middle Ages till nowadays. Organ is a fascinating instrument; the organist is also the orchestrator. And there are some 20 very different archetypes of instruments; so an organist has to learn every organ on which he is going to play. Imagine a violinist, to whom we give an unknown violin and bow three hours before the concert. For organists it’s our daily bread,” explains Israel’s arguably most successful organ player, who shares his time between Switzerland and his native country.
Rabin plays a broad organ repertoire, “from the Middle Ages to contemporary music, which is being written all the time. I had the privilege of performing premiers by various composers,” he says. “Some were written for me, as by Eitan Steinberg, Shlomo Dubnov. The last one was by the great Noam Sheriff, who wrote me a beautiful praeludium, which refers to Bach’s fantasia in G minor and to Noam´s time in Berlin. I heard that a copy of the score was on his music stand when he passed. I know he had in mind to write some more organ music, but it is lost.”
Does Rabin, as an observant Jew, have any problem with Christian liturgy, with which a huge part of organ music immediately associates?
Not really. “I became an organist before I became observant. I was always making music, just as I am doing now. For me, accompanying the Israeli Vocal Ensemble with Dvorak’s Mass in D Major is an example of making good music for the sake of good music. I am sure that the ensemble members and its artistic director, Yuval Benozer, feel the same. I understand the humane ideas behind various religious pieces, and I can express them through music, but I don´t need to identify with it religiously.
For many years now, Rabin has served as artistic director of the Israeli Organ Festival, which actually “consists of two of the Israeli Organ Association concert series, in Haifa and Jerusalem.” The festival features from seven to nine concerts a year and owes its existence to Gerard Levy, a great organ and culture philanthropist, explains Rabin. “Almost all the organists are coming from abroad, and the concerts adhere to the highest international standards.”
One of the Israeli Vocal Ensemble’s concerts will take place within the framework of this festival.
The concerts will take place on February 15 at the University of Haifa, 11 a.m. (as part of the International Organ Festival), 054-531-6994; February 17 at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center, 8 p.m., (02) 626-5666; February 19 at the Municipal Music Center in Ra’anana, 8:30 p.m., 074-701-2112; and February 21 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 8:30 p.m., 074-701-2112.