Music set to verses from the Psalms and the Book of Isaiah will ring out from some Jerusalem landmarks this weekend, as part of a series of concerts featuring works by Bach, Mendelssohn and Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun.
The concerts will be held between Thursday night and Saturday night and will take place at the YMCA and St. Andrew's Scottish Church and two sites in the Old City: Zedekiah's Cave, near Damascus Gate, and Christ Church, near Jaffa Gate. Some of the concerts will be combined with Saturday afternoon tours.
In keeping with the traditions of the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, which took place in September, some of the concerts will open with the playing of the church's carillon by Gaby Shefler.
The rich and abundant (but not overloaded ) program includes Braun's "A Great Light," which is based on verses from Isaiah and will be sung by soprano Keren Hadar, with the accompaniment of horn and strings. It would be an understatement to say this is worth hearing.
The entire project is directed by Hagai Goren and the first attraction will be on Thursday evening, featuring the Tel Aviv Soloists Ensemble, the Collegium Singers, Hadar and horn player Alon Reuven, all conducted by Barak Tal.
Also on the concert program are Mendelssohn's wonderful cantata "Who Allows God Alone to Rule Him" (inspired by a cantata of the same title by Bach ), short works for chorus and string orchestra by Haydn and Mozart, and Mendelssohn's String Symphony No. 1 in D minor.
In praise of Jerusalem
Among the noteworthy Baroque events in the Jerusalem Choral Fantasy Festival, which also includes light music, is the Friday evening concert centered around Bach's popular Cantata 147. It will also feature short works entitled "In Praise of Jerusalem," one by Vivaldi and the other by Purcell.
It's a nice coincidence that in both these works Psalm 147 is set to music, and that that's also the catalog number of Bach's cantata. The pieces will be performed by the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir and the Barrocade Ensemble, conducted by Ronen Borshevsky. Some of Israel's best soloists will be performing.
Before then, at 5 P.M., a varied program will be presented by eight singers with the New Israeli Vocal Ensemble. At 11 A.M. Saturday the excellent Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra singers Einat Aronstein and Alon Harari will perform in two versions of "Stabat Mater," one by Pergolesi and the other by Vivaldi.
Oboist as soloist
At the age of 72, master Swiss oboist Heinz Holliger takes a turn as a soloist for a Bach cantata that highlights his instrument. The title of the CD of concerts and symphonies for oboe produced by ECM Records, performed by Holliger and the Camerata Bern orchestra, comes from Psalms 94:19. The text used in the title, "In the multitude of my thoughts within me," is set to music as part of the astounding choral section that opens Bach's Cantata BWV 21, the longest of all his cantatas and one of those performed most often.
The choral section is preceded by a long instrumental introduction (sinfonia ), which establishes an atmosphere that is both bleak and full of grandeur. A solo oboe sings in it. This opening section - Bach's finest writing for the oboe - also opens the medley of works for oboe and orchestra gathered on this CD.
The best oboe music in Bach's work has been collected here, including some very well-known works, including the violin concerto and Oboe BWV 1060, the opening sinfonia of Cantata BWV 12 ("Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing" ) and the adagio from the Easter Oratorio.
An exception in this collection is a well-known work by Alessandro Marcello, an Italian composer who was a contemporary of Bach's. The justification for its inclusion: It is known for Bach's adaptation of it for solo harpsichord. The playing is excellent.
Holliger himself wrote the explanatory album notes. This is a text that is as dry as dust and seems to apologize pedantically for the inclusion of works for the oboe that are reconstructed early versions of a well-known later version in which the solo instrument is different. Bach, like other Baroque composers, did not hesitate to borrow from himself, for practical reasons.
This CD contains wonderful works and offers a first-rate performance. But those who know Bach's Cantata BWV 21 will be frustrated because after the instrumental opening they will expect the continuation that doesn't arrive, because the disc is devoted to oboe passages. Similar frustration lies in wait for lovers of Cantata BWV 12 and the Easter Oratorio.
The collection ends with Concerto BWV 1059. Two of the movements in it are identical to instrumental movements in Cantata BWV 35 ("Spirit and Soul Become Confused" ), in which the solo instrument is the organ. The oboe version is preferable by far.