Spaced out in sound – at the Felicja Blumental Festival

The event will take place in the museum’s Israeli Art Gallery, and people can get up and move around and even take out candies and happily rustle the wrapping paper.

Swiss composer Katharina Rosenberger’s sound installation, Modules, is one of the highlights of this year’s Felicja Blumental Festival. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Swiss composer Katharina Rosenberger’s sound installation, Modules, is one of the highlights of this year’s Felicja Blumental Festival.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
 If your idea of classical music entertainment is settling into a comfy seat in a plush auditorium to hear, say, the Israel Philharmonic perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 6, you may feel that the Katharina Rosenberger musical installation slot at the forthcoming Felicja Blumental International Music Festival is not for you. Then again, you may want to experience something new, something a mite on the adventurous side, that may very well open up new avenues to aural enjoyment and, indeed, artistic appreciation in general.
The 18th edition of the annual festival, which is curated by Annette Celine and Avigail Arnheim, will take place at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art April 4 to 9, with the Rosenberger work, which will be performed by the Ensemble Nikel quartet, scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
on the last day of the program. The international foursome comprises Israeli guitarist Yaron Deutsch, German saxophonist Patrick Stadler, American percussionist Brian Archinal and pianist Antoine Françoise, who originates from Switzerland.
The titular theme of the six-dayer is a “Spanish spirit” but takes in broad tracts of artistic creativity, including European classical music from the 18th century up to the present day, pop, jazz, folk music, early music and musical theater.
The latter sector will be referenced in a performance about the life of Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet, playwright and theater director who was killed at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, at the age of 38.
There will be more Iberian fare at the April 7 Flamenco, Granados & Turina concert, which follows the Eine Kleine Hausmusik program based on the Jewish music salons held by sisters from the prominent Itzig family in their homes in Germany and Austria, in the early 19th century.
The festival also spotlights the contributions of homegrown composers, some of whom work and live abroad, as part of the Homecoming category of the lineup. The section is designed to showcase the diversity of material written by Israelis, and takes in “Water Psalms,” by Jerusalem-born Gilead Mishory, which incorporates quotations from medieval poet and philosopher Yehuda Halevi; “Ayre,” by Argentine-born Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov, who studied at the Rubin Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem; as well as concerts that marry Arabic and Western music written and performed by Menachem Wiesenberg, Taiseer Elias and Chen Halevi.
There will also be a fine offering of top Baroque ensembles from around the world, including the returning Koelner Akademie Orchestra, which will perform Mozart concertos with Ronald Brautigan on fortepiano, while Portuguese early music group the Ludovice Ensemble will present an evening of Baroque music from Portugal and Italy.
The Rosenberger installation goes by the name of Modules and, as the title suggests, it is a creation of several parts.
“I wanted to write a piece that was modular, that has this opportunity to be very flexible, how it is going to be performed,” she explains.
The Swiss composer found the perfect partner for the exploratory project in the form of Ensemble Nikel, and she and the quartet have done business before, performing the installation – albeit with a slightly different repertoire – last year in Switzerland.
Modules comprises scores written by Rosenberger, which she calls Interludes, which are interspersed by works by various contemporary composers, including “Cinque Nudi” (Naked Five), for saxophone and electronics, by 37-year-old Italian composer Marco Momi; “Arbeit” for solo keyboard, by 46-year-old Enno Poppe from Germany; and “Trash TV Trance,” written in 2001 by Italian composer Fausto Romitelli, who died in 2004 at the age of only 41. Meanwhile, Rosenberger’s contributions include five interludes for saxophone, electric guitar, drums, keyboards and electronics.
BUT THE technical details of the works in question tell only part of the story.
The installation is not just about the charts. This is very much a proactive event, with the players, audience and even the venue conspiring to produce a hopefully enthralling entertainment experience.
“Yaron Deutsch invited me to write a piece for them. He asked me to write interludes,” Rosenberger explains. “But I then proposed to him that instead of giving them a piece that is totally broken down in different similar pieces, I would write a piece in which the interludes could be played separately or together, as one piece.”
It is becoming clear that the installation is a consummate cooperative affair, in which a constant dialogue is maintained between the score and the executors, who continually flit between the creator’s written plan of action and the generous gray area betwixt the notes, where the players can give free rein to their own ideas as they evolve.
“The musicians have to navigate in the piece,” Rosenberger continues. “I love the fact that the musicians can find their own way around the pieces and bring their own personality. And, if they want, they can overlap my material with the other compositions.”
That’s not all. The music comes at the audience from all sides, with the players located around the listeners and, as the program notes have it, “the public who sits in the center feels like being in a ship in the ocean.”
In fact, the patrons can pretty much do as they please while the installation is in progress. With the musical story being spun from different parts of the performance space, and decorum being very much a side issue, one might think that the members of the audience would have to be very focused to catch the creators’ full intent. Deutsch does not go along with the cerebral line.
“The listener has to be involved,” he says. “The word ‘concentration’ implies that the listener has to be intellectually active. That is not the case.”
The event will take place in the museum’s Israeli Art Gallery, and people can get up and move around and even take out candies and happily rustle the wrapping paper while Deutsch et al. do their thing. Anyone who has ever been to a conventional classical concert will know that, for some reason, there is generally a torrent of coughing and fidgeting in between movements. That clearly won’t be the case on April 9.
One might even go so far as to say that the quartet will welcome the sonic intervention, or input, of the paying customers.
“We often work with two stages,” says the guitarist. “I remember an event in 2013 when we intentionally had a video on one side, a very political video, which really grabbed the audience’s attention. Then we got on a stage behind the audience, and when we started to play, everyone had to turn around, which made a lot of noise.
We knew that as soon as they turned around and made a lot of noise, that would release their breathing, and they would know they did not have to sit stiffly while they listened to us. That is very liberating.”
The official title of the event is Exposed Concrete, followed by the epexegetical sequitur “Music within a space concept.” If the intended machinations of the concert are still not clear, the fact that the name of the architect, Amit Nehmlich, appears alongside that of Ensemble Nikel might give the game away. Each performance of Modules is, in essence, a site-specific event, with the acoustics and layout of the concert area an integral player in the way the project pans out.
“The members of the audience will not only be surrounded by works of art, which are large, but also by the architectural space which is very interesting and also draws the attention,” Deutsch observes. “The music, because of the distances between the players and the white noise, which is a very prominent part of the musical material, leaves the space that offers the audience a different perspective on how they experience the space. This is a very interesting and beautiful work.”