Text size

The Sixth Biennale for Contemporary Music, which will open on Wednesday at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art is "a window on contemporary music, almost like an exhibition of it," says the director of the music program at the Tel Aviv Museum, Avigail Arnheim, who is involved in directing the festival. She is doing so alongside the director, composer Joseph Bardanashvili.

This approach has a twofold expression: On the one hand, it is an attempt to reflect creative activity, which still consists of experiments and attempts to find the way; on the other hand, it is bringing works that Arnheim calls "surefire" even though they belong to what is called "modern music." She is referring to music and composers who over time have gained widespread recognition on an international level, and whose works are often performed.

There will be 12 concerts performed at the festival - a flood of music. Among the performing artists are the Meitar Ensemble (which will perform at the opening concert, including works by Israeli composers that were inspired by paintings, as well as a work by Kancheli); a multinational string ensemble from Austria called the Spirit of Europe, which sees itself as having a universal mission (in the official details it says that the ensemble often performs in Muslim countries); voice artists Anat Pick and Etty Ben-Zaken; the Aviv String Quartet; the Musica Nova ensemble and the 21st Century ensemble, which will close the festival on Saturday night.

Outstanding examples from the shelf of surefire works at the Biennial are a quartet by Alban Berg, the "Chamber Symphony" by John Adams (which will be played at the final concert) and works by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, who will be the guest of honor at the events. Pianist Einav Yarden will play a work of his called "Boston Waltz" with the string ensemble from Austria. Arnheim says this waltz is played by pianist Alexander Korsantia all over the world.

Unlike the above examples, and at the opposite extreme, are a long series of electronic-visual works (using video) by students of the Musrara School of Photography, Media and New Music in Jerusalem. Can the listener absorb a significant and distinct artistic message at an event composed of 12 short items? An answer to that will of course be given after the experience, and for the time being, we can only taste something of the atmosphere of this intensive activity by citing a passage from the program.

One of the young composers describes a quartet that he wrote, and explains that it "deals with the issue of the rhythmic grid and its influence on the manner of execution and level of alertness of the players."

And also in the experimental part of the Biennial: an improvised performance with saxophonist Ariel Shibolet and friends, which is characterized as "music that is composed during the concert itself," and a concert called "Nothing Happens as Planned," which stars familiar and well-known names in the Israeli avant-garde, including Arik Shapira, Amnon Wolman and Yossi Mar-Haim. Arnheim describes this performance as "extreme avant-garde." Another performance, which will be performed by composer Ronen Shapira and singer Yaheli Toran, she describes as belong to "a popular experimental category."

This Biennale is honored by the participation of Giya Kancheli, a central figure in late 20th-century music. Kancheli will attend the concerts, first and foremost those that include his works (at one of them clips from films for which he composed the music will be screened).

The 70-year-old composer has been living for the past 15 years in Antwerp and considers himself an exile. One of his works to be performed (with singer Hila Baggio and the Musica Nova ensemble,) is called "Exile," and it contains songs whose texts, in German, are taken from poems by Paul Celan and from Psalms, among other sources.

The Biennial is under the direction (for the third time) of composer Joseph Bardanashvili; the first three times it was directed by Shulamit Ran. The main sponsors of the project are the music department of the Ministry of Education and Culture along with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, the Rabinowitz Foundation, the America-Israel Cultural Foundation and foreign embassies.