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Flute of grace
'Are our songs, the songs we all know from our childhood, the songs we have always loved, less beautiful? Less artistic? Of course not!'
How would you define grace? There are, of course, many definitions, but allow me to suggest a new one: Song of the Flute - Israel's Classical Songs, performed by Noam Buchman with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The entire disc, composed of 14 tunes, is completely infused with a wonderful sensation of grace, delight and sheer pleasure. You don't have to be an aficionado of Israeli or classical music to appreciate and enjoy this new recording. You need only suspend, for about an hour, everything you've recently heard as Israeli music - especially if one of the popular local TV programs has been your source - and allow flutist Noam Buchman to envelop you with his music. Buchman is the first flutist of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. Born in Tel Aviv, he came with his parents to Jerusalem at an early age. "I became a part of this landscape. I enjoy a bicycle ride in the mountains here - but I am still very close to the seaside," he says with a large smile over a cup of coffee and a cigarette (yes, this flutist does smoke). Speaking happily of the recording, he says, "This whole project was conceived and realized with love. A very large amount of love. I guess it seeps out and the people who listen to the music can also feel it." The idea was born on "on one of my wife's and my bicycling tours in the region. I told her I had this idea on my mind, it was not hard to convince her - she is always my partner - and we began this journey together. "It was a huge amount of work but all that time, we had the feeling that we are doing the right thing. It has taken us over a year, and then, when the disc was ready to go public, the war in Lebanon broke out. I was sure it would be a total loss - how can you promote a disc while people are being shelled and killed? So we prepared ourselves, at least mentally, to lose the whole thing. But to our surprise, our very big surprise, people have reacted very well. "We have tried to understand why - I guess these tunes, which are so beautiful, so touching, touched the public. The recording has generated a special emotion, despite the war, and is assuming its place among the current recordings." Buchman chose the tunes himself. "I have played some of the most beautiful classical Western pieces ever written. I have played Bach, and Mozart and Schubert. I have even recorded a disc of works by Schubert, transcripted for the flute. "I love the Schubert Lieder the most, and then I thought to myself, we, too have very beautiful songs. True, Leonard Bernstein also wrote wonderful songs, But are our songs, the songs and tunes composed by Sasha Argov, Naomi Shemer, Arieh Levanon, Nahum Heyman and David Zahavi, the songs we all know from our childhood, the songs we have always loved - are these songs less beautiful? Less artistic? Of course not! He continues passionately, "These are the tunes which form our classics foundation. We Israelis all love these songs, and there is nothing less valuable about them than those pieces composed by the 'great composers' from abroad." Since the interview with Buchman took place the same week as the finale of the popular, A Star is Born TV show aired, I couldn't resist the temptation to ask him if the disc was perhaps some kind of counterforce. Buchman's smile couldn't have been broader. "Hey, you know, I'm just a guy who loves music. I'm not part of this," he quips, but then he adds, more seriously, "I guess it could be interpreted that way, but that was not my intention." Yet, I insist, the disc is almost a subversive statement against the way Israeli music is handled on programs such as A Star is Born. Buchman offers something so totally different, so "politically incorrect," that perhaps this is what is generating the public interest. Buchman demurs. "I don't know. There's a point here, but I really believe the disc will speak for itself. You know, I asked my children to listen to it. They are representatives of at least a part of their generation, yet the fact is that they liked it very much, they were enthusiastic - and believe me, it's not because I'm their father. "It's just beautiful music - listen to the tunes, "Ein Gedi" or "Hehalil." They are simply and truly so beautiful that you just cannot resist." Buchman also attributes the success, at least in part, to the musical arrangements by Shlomo Gronich, Oded Zehavi, Shimon Cohen, Mati Caspi, Rafi Kadishzon and Noam Sheriff. "I asked composers to do the arrangements," he explains. "I wanted this part to be treated the way it should be in my opinion. This is not a technical detail, this is a part of the artistic creation. So I approached some of the best Israeli composers and the results have been very, very rewarding. "I remember one of the composers who called me very late at night. He was so excited by the results of his work that he just couldn't wait until the morning. So I listened over the phone to his preliminary work; it wasn't, of course, up to the usual, completed standard, but once again, the emotion, the feelings, the excitement did the job for me. These are the moments that made the whole project worthwhile." In addition to Buchman, who is accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and directed by Doron Salomon, the Aviv Quarter, the Ankor Choir and composer and guitarists Reuven Sarussi are also featured on the recording. "They are all part of the same spirit that allowed this project to exist," concludes Buchman. "They all did it out of love - for this wonderful music. We only want people to enjoy the same pleasure when they listen to the music as we enjoyed as we created it." The recording has been produced by the Tav Hashmini label, and independent recording label that seeks to promote good original Israeli music at a reasonable price. "We didn't try to make the songs more beautiful or to change them, but rather to to preserve and guard their beauty, out of love and humility," Buchman writes in the liner notes to the disc and says that he chose to play the flute "because it is so Israeli."
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