Sound Box Highs and Lows on the Stage and in the Program

Like good books waiting on the nightstand, there are also musical works that one wishes would never end. One such work is "Masks" by Israeli composer Josef Bardanashvili, which had its premiere at the Israel Camerata, Jerusalem orchestra concert last weekend.

Twenty-four string instruments and two flutes alternating with two piccolos played music that is all joie de vivre and humor, natural and light on the surface. Looker deeper, though, and concealed under its elegant wrapping is thought, skill and a number of glimpses of sadness.

Bardanashvili has opened up a large range of notes in this work, between the piccolo at the very top and the contrabass scraping the bottom; in the rest of the orchestra he has also juxtaposed the high-pitched instruments - the violins - against the low celli, and in between them the violas, which feel at home between the two worlds.

The result of this was sometimes an amusing hubbub and sometimes a lyrical dialogue of many voices, and moments of conflict and competition, imitation and reconciliation among the sides.

It's impressive to find that the orchestral medium is like a plaything in Bardanashvili's hands and to hear how the composer can shape it to his will.

"Masks" was inserted into the middle of a rather odd program that was concocted for this concert, and it seemed that they were trying to conceal some hitch here and fill spaces that had been created for some reason or other. Alexander Korsantia, an excellent pianist who is much loved here, was called upon to play two solo Chopin scherzi and a narrator preceded him and a number of other works with a reading of literary and poetic selections that had no particular context.

The theme of the concert was declared to "Metamorphoses," and in accordance with that, the concert kicked off with a Richard Strauss piece with that name, a work that is emotional to the point of bursting. The continuation, however, did not follow suit and it was necessary to muster concentration in order to ignore the perplexing context.

In any case, the pieces were excellently played and with devotion, as is always the case with conductor Avner Biron. Dmitri Shostakovich's "Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and String" for the finale showed how wary one must be of humorless people who try to entertain, make the time go by pleasantly and amuse.

On paper, this concerto seems to be jolly and funny but in reality it is a little embarrassing. There are people who have what it takes, like Bardanashvili, and there are those, like Shostakovich, who should really content themselves with fateful and solemn subjects.

The Israel Camerata, Jerusalem; conductor: Avner Biron; soloists: Alexander Korsantia, piano, and Yigal Meltzer, trumpet: works by Richard Strauss, Frederic Chopin, Josef Bardanashvili and Dmitri Shostakovich, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, March 5