Masterpieces by Mozart, Brahms and Schubert; a first encounter with the German post- Romantic composer Rudi Stephan, and a first opportunity in Israel to hear a symphony by Franz Schreker; a selection of sophisticated musical pieces by Richard Strauss; and a world premiere by the Israeli composer Noam Sheriff. All this and much more awaits audiences in the 17th annual Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, to be held September 4-13 at the Jerusalem YMCA.
Fifty-nine musicians, about half of them Israelis, will play in a variety of ensembles. Some are new to the festival. Among them are the violinists Rainer Honeck (Austria), Guy Braunstein (Israel and Europe) and Mihaela Martin (Romanian); her husband, the Swedish cellist Frans Helmerson; Michael Barenboim (son of pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and festival director and pianist Elena Bashkirova); the Swiss violist Madeleine Carruzzo; pianists Kirill Gerstein (Russia and Europe), Iddo Bar-Shai (Israel) and Saleem Ashkar (Israel); and the cellists Alisa Weilerstein (U.S.) and Alexander Knyazev (Russia). The vocal artists include the German bass-baritone Robert Holl, American tenor Stephan Rugamer and the German sopranos Anna Prohaska and Angela Denoke.
As she does every year, the project’s founder, Elena Bashkirova (and those who assist her in managing the event, headed by attorney Yehezkel Beinisch) aims to present a menu of works with a common denominator. This time there are three themes. One is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. This was a time in which the classical music concert scene was on the brink of a tectonic shift: a transition from heightened post-Romantic to the far reaches of expressive ability, as in Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”), and into the labyrinth of modern music. In this context, the festival offers short works by the German composer Rudi Stephan, who was killed in the First World War at the age of 28. The festival program quotes remarks about Stephan by a present-day composer, Gordon Kerry. According to Kerry, if not for Stephan’s early death, 20th-century music might well have evolved differently.
The second theme of the festival is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Richard Strauss, a composer whose work was formerly banned in Israel, but has been performed frequently since the boycott was lifted. The third and final current running through the program is the performance of sextets, including the youthful sextet by Felix Mendelssohn (who even before the age of 20 wrote immortal works), the two sextet masterpieces by Brahms, and a rarely performed work by Beethoven, a sextet for two violins, cello, viola and two horns. A few events not to be missed:
September 4: Opening concert
Everyone will enjoy the Schubert lieder, sung by Robert Holl, and Brahms’ String Sextet, led by violinist Rainer Honeck (see p.13).
A noon performance of a Sextet by Erno Dohnányi and Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet (with the Bulgarian pianist Plamena Mangova and string instruments led by the violinist Asi Matathias). In the evening, there will be a concert of cabaret songs, “From Berlin to Beverly Hills,” with songs by Weill, Eisler and others, performed by Angela Denoke, accompanied (piano and explanatory remarks) by Tal Balshai, a Berlin-based Israeli musician, and the cellist Tim Parks. The concert has been very successful abroad.
Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos (Alexander Melnikov and Iddo Bar-Shai), the composer’s “A Musical Joke,” a work of seeming unrestrained mischievousness, and Strauss’s “Le bourgeois gentilhomme.”
Mainly French delicacies, including Poulenc’s lovely Piano Sextet.
Very intriguing – a chamber arrangement of Shostakovich’s Symphony 15.
The full program of the festival is available at www.jcmf.org.il