The Kfar Blum Music Festival, Abloom With the Classical and the New

This year's lineup offers chamber music, narrated Baroque concertos and a protest piece about the 1997 twin helicopter crash that killed 73 soldiers.

It appears everyone involved in Israel's classical music scene will be coming to Kibbutz Kfar Blum this weekend. During the eight days of what is officially known as "The Voice of Music in Upper Galilee Chamber Music Festival," instrumental ensembles that regularly play together, and some that will come together only for the festival, will perform in the morning, afternoon and evening alongside 14 singers (including young novices), solo pianists, a piano duo, and accompanying pianists.

The festival will not only offer a parade of classical hits but a stage overflowing with artistic, Israeli, musical content. In addition to Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert, and narrated Baroque concertos (starring festival director Michael Meltzer), a rich array of original Israeli works will be performed. The opening night concert on Friday will be entirely devoted to works by Menachem Wiesenberg; other acts will include Yehezkel Braun's performance of Heine's poems (in German) set to music, as well as works by Yinam Leef, Uri Leshman and others. A special concert will feature Oded Zehavi's new arrangements of songs by Naomi Shemer.

The concert will also feature a composition by Upper Galilee resident Yehuda Levi, written to protest neglect of the memorial to the 73 soldiers who lost their lives in the twin helicopter tragedy of 1997.

Pure chamber music, which is traditionally the core of the festival, will be represented by two trios (piano, violin and cello): the new Mondrian Trio and the veteran Israeli Trio. The Mondrian Trio includes violinist Daniel Bard, pianist Ohad Ben-Ari and cellist Hila Karni. The Israeli Trio are violinist Menachem Breuer, pianist Tomer Lev and cellist Hillel Zori.

Other participants include the Ensemble Meitar (singer and musicians), which specializes in rarely played works and new, Israeli music; the Meitarei Yerushalayim ensemble, which mainly performs light, Jewish music; the Erato string trio; and the Upper Galilee Choir conducted by Ron Zarhi.

As in previous years, German baritone Andreas Reibenspies and pianist Adi Bar will carry on the festival's lieder tradition. Here is only a sampling of interesting concerts in a copious program: "The Planets," by Gustav Holst, will be performed on opening day (Friday) in an arrangement for two pianists (Yuval Admoni and Tami Kanazava). Another concert on Friday will be devoted to a series of works by Menachem Wiesenberg, some of them to include dance performances to choreography produced by his wife, Mimi Ratz Wiesenberg.

This Saturday morning, the festival will mount an example of the unique quality of British Baroque: Purcell's "King Arthur" (a libretto for text written by poet John Dryden). The show will reappear at the end of the concert series, on Saturday, August 4.

German baritone Andreas Reibenspies will, as mentioned, star in several lieder performances. His tender voice and profound affinity to the central lieder works (art songs by Schubert, Brahms and Schumann) are familiar to those who have attended the Kfar Blum festival in recent years. In his first recital, Reibenspies will sing lieder written for text by Heine and composed by Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun. The songs will be sung in the original German.

The inspiration for a composition by Kibbutz Hagoshrim member Yehuda Levi, entitled, "Yehi Afarchem L'Aidut" (literally, "may your ashes bear witness") derived from utterly different circumstances. It was written for an orchestra of strings, English horn, glockenspiel and a narrator reading a poem by Kibbutz Hatzor member Anda Harel Dagan.

Levi also writes that during recent weeks, a private donation made it possible to begin completion of the memorial to the 1997 helicopter crash casualties. "The same state," says Levi, "which in an act of criminal neglect sent 73 of its finest sons to deaths that were preventable if protocol was followed, cannot find a piece of land and the budget to honor their memories."

A note on financial matters: The number of artists who will perform at Kfar Blum this year is unusually large. The kibbutz traditionally housed festival performers in its hotel, and festival organizers picked up the tab for their rooms. Their on-site presence contributed to the special atmosphere that developed during the festival since its founding. After the kibbutz was privatized, its Pastoral Hotel became an independent financial enterprise, jointly owned by the kibbutz and outside investors. The price differential between the package offered to musicians and the rental price offered to private guests became an acute issue this year. According to the hotel's director, the difference in price reached 43 percent, thus causing a breakdown in negotiations between the Pastoral Hotel and the Upper Galilee Local Council, which organizes the festival. The result: The musicians will stay at the hotel at Kfar Giladi.