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The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Lahav Shani, Music Director of the IPO. Photo credit: Marco Borggreve

Current reviews and future concerts 

The opening concert of the current season of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) was conducted by Lahav Shani, their music director. It featured an outstanding performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony. The IPO gave an impressive rendering of the first two movements that had sweep, shape and vitality. Woodwinds, brass and strings combined to give a sublime account of the third movement adagio, arguably amongst the greatest orchestral music that Beethoven ever composed.

The vocal forces made their appearance in the final movement, which contains the famous Ode to Joy by Friedrich Schiller. The poem is a message to humanity to live together in peace and harmony, which is unfortunately sadly lacking today in these turbulent times.

Because of his deafness, Beethoven had forgotten the limitations of the human voice and was not kind to his singers. Of the soloists, the most satisfying was Chen Reiss, whose soaring soprano could be clearly heard above the orchestra and choir. The real vocal heroes were the magnificent Munich Bach Choir and the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir.

The only disconcerting feature in this wonderful evening of music making occurred in the final movement. This begins with a short recapitulation of the first three movements, each of which is discarded and then there is a brief moment of silence before cellos and double basses tentatively usher in the famous theme of the last movement. Exactly in the dramatic moment of silence, a mobile phone started ringing. Shani handled this with aplomb but the majesty of the moment was regrettably lost.

Beethoven's ninth was preceded by a performance of Sibelius's violin concerto with Japanese soloist, Sayaka Shoji. She is undoubtedly an accomplished musician and was certainly up to the technical demands of this concerto. However, I missed the richness, dramatic depth and grandeur, which often characterize other performances of this concerto.

The following concert in the series featured the veteran Argentinian pianist, Martha Argerich who gave an incandescent and riveting tour de force performance of Prokofiev's fiendishly difficult third piano concerto. Argerich first recorded his work 45 years ago and it is extraordinary how after all this time, she has still maintained her remarkable virtuosity. Shani provided nuanced, richly textured and vibrant conducting. As an encore, Shani, also an accomplished pianist, joined Argerich in a rendering of a short transcription of one of Bach's cantatas.

After the intermission, there was a performance of Bach's Magnificat. The Magnificat was composed in 1723, the year that Bach was appointed director of music and organist of St Thomas's Church in Leipzig. This short stunning composition served to impress the citizens of Leipzig of the competence of their new musical director.

Shani again mustered the impressive forces of the orchestra and gave an energetic, richly characterized detailed and purposeful performance. He drew vigorous playing and shimmering sound with brisk, thrilling tempos. Especially impressive was the IPO's trumpet section. Again, pride of place went to the combined choral forces of the Munich Bach Choir and the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir.

The performance I attended was part of the IPO's Intermezzo series on Friday mornings. Each IPO concert in this specific subscription is accompanied by coffee and cake on the house and a preconcert talk by a prominent musicologist. Another innovative subscription series, The Philharmonic in Jeans, is geared to a younger clientele. These concerts begin at 10pm and on this occasion, Shani and Argerich were appropriately dressed in jeans. In addition to the concert, the audience is offered a free beer and even a jazz performance. Every concert is presented by a well-known personality from the Israeli arts and culture scene. Besides the regular subscription series in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem, there is also a chamber music series, featuring celebrated soloists as well as IPO musicians.

Kirill Petrenko, Chief Conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Photo credit: Chris Christdoulou

One of the most exciting future appearances for the music-loving public is the conductor Kirill Petrenko. In 2013, he was appointed music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Within a short time, he invigorated the company to the extent that Munich is recognized as one of the most exciting international opera venues. In 2000, Petrenko was appointed chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, probably the most prestigious conducting position in the world.

Petrenko appears shy, private and reserved. He rarely grants interviews to the press. "I prefer," he once said, "to speak through my work on the podium." The Berlin Orchestra members and audiences are completely devoted to him. He is regarded as the "musician's musician," and is one of the most gifted conductors in the world. The Israeli concert-going public is most fortunate in that he frequently visits Israel to conduct the IPO. His program includes two works from the classical repertoire (Beethoven's Symphony No. 8 and Brahms's Haydn variations) as well as Schoenberg's variations for orchestra, which was the composer's first twelve-tone composition. The latter was a system that Schoenberg devised to replace tonality.

The versatile up-and-coming Danish conductor and violinist Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, will appear with the IPO playing violin concertos by Brahms and Bruch in concerts conducted by Shani.

Another great pianist, Rudolf Buchbinder, is making a visit a further visit to Israel. He is one of the foremost pianists in the world, especially renowned for his interpretation of the classical repertoire. About 12 years ago, Buchbinder opened the IPO season performing Brahms's two piano concertos in a single concert, a real Herculean task. On this occasion, he will play Mozart's piano concerto No. 25. The conductor in this concert will be Andrea Battistoni, a rising young talent who at the age of 24 became the youngest conductor to mount the podium of Milan's La Scala Opera. Music-loving Israelis have exciting programs ahead.

Tickets for students, soldiers, new immigrants, youth aged 6-18 and disabled persons are available at reduced prices.

Box office phone: *3766

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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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