"...Avner Geiger’s performance was lively and flexible, his use of ornaments rich and varied..."
(Pamela Hickman 22.05.11)
The Resonance Ensemble performs Baroque- and early Classical music at the Austrian Hospice
“Vivaldi Goes to Vienna” was the theme of a concert performed by the Resonance Ensemble May 14th 2011 in the salon of the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family in Jerusalem’s Old City. The Resonance Ensemble is a new Israeli group focusing on Baroque chamber music. Its members have each made their name in the field of performing and, as ensemble musicians, they focus on bringing out the particular spirit of the time of works they perform.
Zvi Meniker, director of the Resonance Ensemble, was born in Moscow but grew up in Israel. An organist and specialist in performance on early keyboard instruments – harpsichord and fortepiano – Professor Meniker performs and records widely and heads the Early Music department of the Hochschule for Music and Theater in Hannover (Germany).
Ira Givol (b.1979, Israel) Ira plays both viola da gamba and ‘cello and mostly devotes his time to the performance of chamber music. A member of several Baroque ensembles, Givol is also a founding member of the Tel Aviv Trio. He is the recipient of several awards and has performed with leading Israeli orchestras.
Avner Geiger (b.1982, Israel), currently a member of the Israel Camerata Jerusalem, plays both modern flute and Baroque flute (traverse). He is a graduate of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and has taken postgraduate studies in Germany and France. Geiger has soloed with orchestras in Israel and further afield.
Composer, arranger and violinist Jonathan Keren (b.1978, Israel) began his violin studies with Chaim Taub. He spent his three years’ mandatory service in the Israel Defense Force as a member of the “Outstanding Musicians” unit, where he arranged more than 50 pieces for chamber- and vocal ensembles. Keren holds a masters degree from the Julliard School of Music. His works have are performed widely, his most recent piano piece recently appearing on a disc played by David Greilsammer. Jonathan Keren currently resides in New York.
Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Trio in D major RV84 for Traverso, Violin and Basso Continuo is, in fact a concerto, in which the flute appears as a solo instrument in the episodes, with the violin functioning as a ripieno instrument in tutti sections. Soloing with the energetic and many-faceted dimensions of the group’s signature sound, Avner Geiger’s performance was lively and flexible, his use of ornaments rich and varied.
It is not known when Vivaldi’s composed his six sonatas for ‘cello and continuo. Not especially demanding technically, they may have been written for students at the Ospedale, the school for orphan girls, where the composer was employed. Ira Givol’s reading of the work was flexible, dramatic and adventurous, infused with emotional energy.
The foremost German keyboard composer before Bach, Johann Jacob Froberger (1616-1667) studied with Frescobaldi in the late 1630’s (converting to Catholicism in order to study with him in Rome.) He was in court employment in Vienna and Brussels and won success as a performer in France and England. The personal idiom he developed combined aspects of German, French and Italian styles, his surviving oeuvre consisting almost exclusively of keyboard music. Zvi Meniker performed one of Froberger’s toccatas. Featuring multiple sections, Meniker’s playing of it took the listener into the more daring harpsichord repertoire as he brought out the individual character of each small section, texture, with arpeggiation, ornamentation and other devilish, technical challenges making for a sense of spontaneity and personal expression.
On January 2nd 1791, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) arrived in England for the first of two visits that would leave their mark on the host country and on Haydn himself. The “London Trios” (1794), originally scored for two flutes and ‘cello, were composed for two of Haydn’s London patrons, Lord Abingdon and Sir Walter Aston, both amateur flautists and, clearly, competent musicians. Geiger, Keren and Givol performed this “lightweight” Haydn repertoire with charm, vitality and technical mastery, emphasizing the work’s naïve, humane lyricism, humor and warmth.
In 1729, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) wrote of his artistic development: “First came the Polish style, followed by the French, church, chamber and operatic styles, and finally the Italian style, which currently occupies me more than the others do”. He composed the Twelve Fantasias for Flute Solo in Hamburg in 1732 or 1733, the G minor Fantasia TWV 40:13 being the last of the set of twelve. Avner Geiger wove the opening Grave in an almost vocal fashion, creating contrasts between the ensuing miniature movements to the Dolce, built on arpeggios and slow, large intervals, closing with a fast Bourree in Polish style.
Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz von Biber (1644-1704), considered the greatest violinist of his time, represented the high point of the Austrian Baroque. He was court composer to the Salzburg Cathedral. The first half of his Violin Sonata no.6 in C minor calls for scordatura (altered tuning), resulting in special tone-color effects. Opening with the broad, noble Largo, Jonathan Keren presents the Passacaglia with a mix of richly weighty and light bowing, brilliant passagework and temperament. Keren handles Biber’s musical and technical demands with verve, contending with the elaborate double- and triple stopping written by the violin virtuoso, adding ornaments to repeated sections. He and Meniker partnered in a thrilling and courageous performance of the final Gavotte.
C.P.E. Bach (1714-1788), the second of J.S.Bach’s sons, composed his Trio Sonata for Traverso, Violin and Basso Continuo in B flat major Wq 161/2 (H.587) in 1748 when employed at the court of Frederick the Great. The trio sonatas were an important part of his chamber music output there, the king being a keen musician and amateur flautist. C.P.E.Bach was one of the foremost representatives of the “Empfindsamkeit” aesthetic in music, which slanted towards personal emotions. In his autobiography (1773), C.P.E.Bach wrote “I feel that music must, above all, touch the heart”. The Resonance Trio presented the grace, beauty and melodiousness of this felicitous music, entertaining the audience with its charm and the many dynamic changes, the latter characterising the impish and playful final movement.
The Resonance Ensemble focuses on the energy and excitement of Baroque music, adamantly pressing the point. All four players are impressive in their technical- and musical aptitude, giving individual expression and interest to the music. Their energy and intensity were not balanced with the mellifluous blending and tranquility also inherent in the repertoire performed, the ‘cello, despite its gut stringing, very often sounding too dominant.
Ensemble Fragment- an article about the Debut progect
(Noam Ben-Ze'ev, Ha'aretz 28.12.2010)
"The soul of a new quintet
Ensemble Fragment proves that music transcends style and genre; it is always a human, social event, a stylized conversation.
Anyone wanting to watch the birth of a new chamber music ensemble, an event that does not happen every day, can come to the Jerusalem Music Centre at 5 P.M. today and listen to the newborn's first sounds: notes that are simultaneously chaotic and orderly, the music of Arnold Schoenberg's Wind Quintet, op. 26.
"Opening with Schoenberg is a declaration of intent," said the quintet's French horn player, Sharon Polyak. He then outlined the group's intentions: "to present a new repertoire for this [type of] group, to play everything that is interesting and exciting, to integrate guests from every sphere of the creative arts. The repertoire for the woodwind quintet is very rich: Stockhausen wrote works for such an ensemble, as did Kurtag and new young contemporary composers; on the other side are the classicists and their flagship works. We want to play them all."
The quintet, known as Ensemble Fragment, launched its premiere tour Saturday night at the Hateiva Studio in Jaffa, and its declaration of intent indeed reverberated. As for the repertoire, starting off with Schoenberg positioned it at the forefront of modernism: It is wondrous how this 86-year-old work remains hypnotic and disturbing.
Nevertheless, hearing it also evokes the feeling of uncovering an ancient archaeological find, due to its composition system: the 12-tone technique that Schoenberg created that same year, thereby dismantling the musical structure and logic that had existed until then. The quintet thus sounds like a cross between a mummified museum display and an alive, kicking group full of innovation and daring.
In addition to Sharon Polyak, who also plays with the Rishon Letzion Symphony Orchestra, the group's members are oboist Tamar Inbar, who is now working in Berlin; bassoonist Daniel Mazaki, who lives in Bordeaux; clarinetist Ishay Lantner, who lives in Hannover; and flutist Avner Geiger, who also lives in Israel, and plays with Israel's Camerata Orchestra.
"As musicians, nothing is final in our lives," said Polyak. "We move around, go from place to place, and it's hard to say where we'll be in another year."
The quintet's performance was also a declaration of intent - a promise of quality that was immediately upheld. It was a pleasure to listen to. Both together and separately, the players brought a high degree of professionalism, a beautiful sound, virtuosity and pleasantness.
Geiger presented the repertoire. Here, finally, was a musician who is modest, polished yet also spontaneous in his remarks, and above all, focused.
The Schoenberg quintet is a kind of experiment in chaos - sometimes mischievous and sprightly, sometimes deeply serious. It made a truly remarkable impression, telling the audience they were going to hear a memorable concert.
The education of classical musicians, as Polyak attests and as every music student knows, is very conservative. Sometimes, outstanding musicians only discover as adults that the world of music also includes works written for their instrument in the past 30 years, or alternatively, 400 years ago - that Brahms and Tchaikovsky are not the only composers around.
"I studied in Berlin and performed there, and then I came to Frankfurt and encountered the Ensemble Modern, one of the three biggest contemporary music ensembles, along with those from Vienna and Paris," Polyak recalled. "And there, for the first time, I heard and played a new repertoire."
Though he and his colleagues got together only after their musical horizons had been opened by studying and playing abroad, it was primarily because of their childhood: All are natives of Rehovot, born between 1980 and 1982, apart from Inbar, who comes from the neighboring city of Nes Tziona. Thus they grew up, studied and played together: first at local music schools, then at the Thelma Yellin school in Givatayim, in chamber ensembles for outstanding musicians and in Daniel Barenboim's Diwan East-West Orchestra. This friendship is apparent on stage. "When we began rehearsals, we felt it was the most natural thing imaginable," Polyak said.
After the intermission, the ensemble was joined by pianist Ran Dank for another quintet, this one from an earlier era: an early Beethoven work for piano and woodwinds. Hearing Schoenberg and Beethoven side by side revealed how few differences there are between them. Music, as the quintet's performance showed, transcends style and genre; it is a human, social event, a kind of stylized conversation that has logic and emotion. Whether this conversation is conducted via tonal, major-minor harmony or some other musical system is a mere detail.
Since the audience had already met the woodwind players, Dank's appearance attracted special attention. It was pleasing to discover a truly gifted pianist who somehow mysteriously also sounds like a wind player - who speaks through the instrument, laughs with it and somehow eliminates the great distance between fingers and keys, and from there to the strings, thereby creating an unusual intimacy with the piano and with its help. This wonderful quintet, a classical-romantic work that plays with Haydn's legacy and foreshadows the pathos of later works, was simply a joy to listen to.
The finale was another turning point in the history of modern music, this time even more innovative and completely current and relevant: Terry Riley's 1964 work "In C," whose aesthetics contradict Schoenberg's technique. The piece, which was among the first in its style, is not limited to specific instruments or a specific number of musicians, and gives musicians a lot of freedom regarding both in what order to play the notes and what structures to use.
The piece's style is minimalist-repetitive, and after 10 minutes, the woodwind and piano sextet had swept the audience into a kind of floating dream. There is much to look forward to in Ensemble Fragment's concert this evening, and in their next one, in June"