Offerings of the classics

This week the classical music program of the Israel Festival gets under way. A quick glance at the program reveals that this year, we're talking mostly chamber music, or at least small group performances. From Canada, the viola da gamba duo of Susie Napper and Margaret Little perform at the Targ Center in Ein Kerem, today at noon and on Saturday at the YMCA at 2 p.m. Their acclaimed performances on this ancient instrument - the grandfather of the cello - have been described as operating on an "elevated plane" by the Boston Globe and as "sophisticated and beguiling" by The New York Times. Their repertoire extends from the 17th century through especially commissioned modern compositions. Spanish and Italian choral music from the 16th century is the focus of a performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Jerusalem Theater by Musica Ficta, a nine-member vocal ensemble from Italy directed by Andrea Angelini. On the program are works by Palestrina, Victoria and Morales, a repertoire that can often be heard on the early music programs of the Voice of Music, but is rarely performed on Israeli stages. Lovers of Baroque music who also appreciate contemporary and popular music performed by classical ensembles and choirs should go to the "Shabbat of Songs," a performance of the Collegium Vocale Leoben from Austria. Taking place at the YMCA on Saturday at 11:30 a.m., , the program includes gospel songs, Baroque pieces, works by Debussy and Bach and even a special interpretation of the immortal song from The Wizard of Oz, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." On Friday June 8, the New London Consort performs at the Jerusalem Theater at 2:30 p.m. The group, directed by Philip Pickett, will perform the Monteverdi's classic L'Orfeo, which premiered 400 years ago in 1607 and ushered in a new age in opera. The production, using period instruments, features vocalists moving among the audience in a similar style to the original performance. In memory of the late Jerusalemite pianist Bracha Eden, a special program of noontime concerts of Romantic piano music have been scheduled at the Targ Center. Pianists from Israel, Poland and Japan will perform works by Rachmaninov, Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Lutoslavsky, Schumann and more on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9. Russian's famous Borodin String Quartet, which has been one of the world's leading quartets for more than 60 years, is scheduled to perform at the Jerusalem Theater on Sunday, June 3 at 8:30 p.m. Its program consists of works by Shostakovitch, Miaskovsky and Borodin and is a must-see concert for chamber music lovers. Another international performance will be a special presentation of Mozart's well-known religious compositions, including his Coronation Mass in C Major. The program, taking place at the Jerusalem Theater on June 6 at 8 p.m., is a collaboration between the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, the Collegium Vocale Leoben from Austria and Italian conductor Marco Zambelli.