Shalev Ad-El lights up

The Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra conductor enthuses about the new season.

The Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra (photo credit: NURIT MOSES)
The Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra
(photo credit: NURIT MOSES)
Shalev Ad-El is certainly a busy man.
At end of July, Metro found him and his wife just returning home from the Kfar Blum music camp up north, with a single day’s turnaround repack before heading for the US. There, he was guest conductor in various orchestras across the country throughout August, returning to Israel in September to ready the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra for its new season.
Nevertheless, in those waning days of July, his greeting is warm and unhurried as he shows me to a seat, offers me a drink and allows ample time to appreciate the spectacular view of the blue Mediterranean from his Netanya home. Then with a smooth segue, he gets down to the business at hand, which is to discuss the new season of the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra, of which he is the chief conductor and artistic director.
It does not take long to realize that he talks little about himself. One has to read his bio to learn that he is one of the leading names on the European Baroque music scene, noted both as a conductor and harpsichordist, and has recorded over 80 CDs for leading labels such as Deutsche Grammophon, CPO, Accent, Chandos and Denon. He has played with and conducted some of the world’s leading musicians such as Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, violinist Shlomo Mintz, German bass-baritone Klaus Mertens and countertenor Michael Chance, and has a list of major orchestra credits spanning the continents.
However, his accomplishments and credits are of little concern during the interview. The light in his eyes and animation in his voice are about the programming he has created for Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra’s new season.
“This is going to be an exciting season,” he reveals.
“Each of the nine monthly concert series will have a specific theme. During November, we will present the Centennial Series of concerts representing the mood of the world at the turn of the last three centuries: Beethoven, Symphony No.
5 (1800); Sibelius, Pelleas and Melisande (1900), which is music based on the theme of the popular “soap opera” story of doomed lovers, based on the play written by Maurice Maeterlinck in 1892; and the Clarinet Concerto composed by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (dedicated to the events of 9/11).
“Taaffe Zwilich is currently the most performed American composer alive, and the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. I believe that the experience of the public is much stronger when they are involved in the history of the period in which the music was written,” comments Ad-El.
The season will be full of noteworthy music and musicians, such as the “Virtuoso Violin” series with Razan Stoica (Romania) as soloist and Critian Orosanu as conductor; Prelude à la Chanson with soloist Adrienne Haan; and Stabat Mater by Pergolesi – Bach’s arrangement, which Ad-El says is one that enriches and deepens the music significantly.
The June 2016 series will feature Saint-Saens’s Carnival of Animals as an experience for adults, directed by Doron Salomon and narrated by actress Nitza Shaul. The witty text is a creation of Yaron London. Multi Piano’s four members will join with the orchestra in a return command performance.
For the season’s finale in July 2016, the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra will offer – for the first time in Israel – a multisensory experience reconstructing the evening of the original premiere of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major op.92, as well as his Wellington’s Victory.
“That premiere evening,” explains Ad-El, “ is regarded by music historians as one of the most formative experiences in the cultural life of Vienna.
Some of Europe’s most famous composers volunteered and gathered to join the orchestra that evening.
Extra musicians will enlarge our orchestra as well. We will also collaborate with a team of historians from Vienna University and with a team of specialists in historic cooking from New York City’s Columbia University to offer the public, in addition to fine music, the most accurate reconstruction of the food the Viennese ate after the concert.”
Ad-El suggests in jest that bathing two weeks before the concert is optional, but dressing up in period costume is encouraged. “The ultimate goal of the orchestra is to create an accurate reconstruction of the famous evening that brought Beethoven unprecedented success, and which he repeated several times in the months after.”
When formulating the programing for the season, Ad-El says he has to consider the health of the orchestra as well as the enthusiasm and interest of the audience.
“An orchestra is made up of living members who need to grow; who need a selection of music that is ‘healthy and nourishing’ to thrive. On the other hand, we need to fulfill the audience’s desire to experience music they love, while attracting new members with innovative programming and fine performances. We are a chamber orchestra whose repertoire extends into the mid-19th century – no Mahler or Bruckner,” he elaborates, referring to the fact that a chamber orchestra is composed of fewer musicians who cannot produce the amount of sound demanded by these two composers.
In February 2013, the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra shared the award with the Israel Philharmonic given by the Israeli Council for Art and Culture as the country’s best orchestra. “The ‘DNA’ of the orchestra,” recounts Ad-El, “has remained the same as when the orchestra was founded by the kibbutz movement before the establishment of the state.
Our core goal is to bring music not only to the important concert venues in the Center such as the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Tel Aviv Opera and the Jerusalem Theater, but also to the outlying areas – such as Beit Gabriel on the shores of Lake Kinneret, Givat Brenner and Ein Hahoresh, where there are fine music halls but not enough orchestral performances.
Does Ad-El have a dream? Certainly. For many years, he says, his dream has been to take music written by famous composers and transcribe it for other instruments. It is out of respect for the music, the result being one of broadening and recreating the musical experience for both the musicians and the audience.
When will he have time? There is no doubt that this busy, creative conductor will find it in the near future.