Posts Tagged ‘Etnachta’

Last-minute Reprieve for Endangered Music in Jerusalem

June 20, 2017

Jerusalem’s Etnachta series of chamber music concerts concluded its season on a high note: Yesterday’s concert was the first to be broadcast by Kan, Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation. The previous concert, on May 22, which was not broadcast, had ended with the announcement that the series’ continuation was in doubt. The popular free series was produced under the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Kan’s predecessor, and no provision had yet been made for the concerts’ survival.

Yesterday’s offering was full of verve, perfectly matching the upbeat news. Pianist Gila Goldstein and pianist, composer, and arranger Tal Zilber premiered one of Zilber’s works “Out of Order,” a lively piece for two pianos. Even livelier was Zilber’s arrangement of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 (based on a czardas) with a salsa beat. The program also included Bach, Arensky, and Poulenc, as well as Zilber’s arrangements of three Israeli songs.

Hayuta Dvir, who has produced and presented the concerts since 1989, introducing each performer and work with knowledge and passion, also announced that she would be presenting the series when it resumes in the fall.

If you visit Jerusalem, save Monday afternoon at 5 for the concerts, at the Jerusalem Theater’s Henry Crown Auditorium. Arrive at least 15 minutes early to pick up a free ticket.

Text copyright 2017 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author

End Looms for Musical Jewel in the Crown

May 28, 2017

One of Jerusalem’s best offerings—the free Monday afternoon Ethnachta series of chamber music concerts—is yet again in danger of being axed. The series was born in 1983 when the Israel Broadcasting Authority established Kol Hamusika (the voice of music), Israel’s classical music station that broadcast the concerts live. The featured artists include promising young Israeli musicians and older Israelis who have already established vigorous careers in Israel and abroad as well as artists from other countries. And the music is not all Beethoven and Brahms. Etnachta also features works by Israeli composers. Since 1989 the concerts have been produced and presented by Hayuta Dvir, who introduces each musician and each work with both passion and erudition.

On Monday afternoons, even in stormy weather, hundreds of local residents and visitors can be seen streaming to the Henry Crown Symphony Hall at the Jerusalem Theater, often filling the venue to the rafters. Last Monday, although there was no listing or announcement of the concert and though it wasn’t at all certain that it would be possible to get past the roadblocks set up for the visit of President Donald Trump (Dvir came to the concert hall on foot while the roads were still closed off), the loyal audience turned out en masse to hear the Israel Haydn Quartet. The group—Eyal Kless (piano), Svetlana Simanovsky (violin), Tali Kravitz (viola), and Shira Mani (cello)—played a lush program of Puccini, Mozart, and Brahms and was joined by clarinetist Eli Even for one of the works. I sat close enough to watch Mani’s often facial expressions as she wielded her bow. She seemed enraptured, and that added to the pleasure of the sublime music.

But whereas previously listeners at home could have tuned in to their radios or streamed the concert on their computers, this time—ominously—the music was not broadcast live (though Dvir managed to organize a recording). And when the final applause came to an end, Dvir told the audience that the next concert, scheduled for June 19, would be the last…unless the public used its power to influence the new broadcasting corporation, which has already wreaked havoc in the lives of so many journalists and technicians.
So please let the corporation know that the public wants the Etnachta concerts to continue. And I would add that I would like them to continue with Hayuta Dvir, who is their heart and soul. Here is an e-mail address:, and here is a phone number: 072-390-5555.

Text copyright 2017 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

Bringing Venice to Jerusalem

November 27, 2012

“My dear Ninette, I know you have a garden and I would love to delve in it,” the gondolier sang to his beloved. Making delicate circles with his fingers in imitation of historical Venetian singers, countertenor Doron Schleifer poured forth his desire to the accompaniment of a harpsichord and a Venetian mandolin (like a soprano lute, but played with a pick).

The song opened a program of secular Venetian music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, performed in costume yesterday afternoon at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall (part of the Jerusalem Theater complex). The concert was part of the Etnachta chamber music series that features outstanding musicians, most of them young Israelis.

Cara La mia Ninetta” opened the first act of this staged concert, in which the music and lyrics expressed the excitement and comic side of falling in love, as Etnachta producer and announcer Hayuta Devir explained.

In Act Two, which reflected the conflicts and surprises of love, Schleifer appeared again alongside soprano Ye’ela Avital in the Monteverdi duet “Bel pastor.” The shepherdess coyly pestered the shepherd with her repeated questions: “Do you love me?” “How do you love me?” “But how much?” “How much?” The scene was particularly amusing because the shepherdess, decked out in long blond curls but with a stubbly beard, was none other than Schleifer; Avital played the shepherd.

Avital has a lovely, clear soprano voice, and Schleifer showed that he, like Avital, was fully capable of producing the difficult trills and flourishes of Baroque music.

The group’s musical director, Yizhar Karshon, who played the harpsichord; Amit Tiefenbrunn, who played the viola da gamba; and Avi Avital, who played the mandolin (and who has the distinction of being the first mandolin player every nominated for a classical-music Grammy), were all decked out in knee breeches and white stockings. They put me in mind of the married men of Toldos Aharon, a strict hassidic sect headquartered in Jerusalem, who wear striped gray coats, black knee breeches, and white stockings, though I doubt these Hassidim would ever be caught warbling about the pangs of earthly love.

The Etnachta series is immensely popular—yesterday’s concert filled the 750-seat hall—but it is an endangered species that producer Devir has fought vigorously to keep alive. The programs, Mondays at 5, often include works by Israeli composers, sometimes even premieres. This free series is one of Jerusalem’s best bargains.

Text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, King David and Jesus: Taking off on a musical tour

December 21, 2010

“Shadrach! Shadrach! Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego!” the singers intoned rhythmically, as they told the story of the three Jews whom Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to bow down to his golden idol. “Shadrach! Shadrach!” they sang, telling how the three emerged unharmed, causing Nebuchadnezzar to recognize the might of the trio’s deity (Daniel 3: 1–30).

The singers were the Kibbutz Artzi Choir, members of kibbutzim founded by the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. From Kibbutz Baram on the Lebanese border in the north to Kibbutz Paran on the Jordanian border in the south they came to Jerusalem. Forty men and women dressed in black, the women with turquoise scarves and the men with aqua ties, mounted the stage of the Henry Crown Auditorium yesterday afternoon to take the audience on a musical tour of religious and folk traditions from four continents.

They began their performance with two psalms, 42 and 29, set to music by Israeli composer Yehezkel Braun. The second of these,  includes the words, “The voice of the Lord shaketh the wilderness; the Lord shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh.” It is the very psalm of David sung when the Torah is carried in a procession around the synagogue on Shabbat before it is read.

Hearing this psalm sung by members of kibbutzim whose founders broke away from religious observance was no odder than hearing their rendition of the gospel song “Shadrach” in Hebrew-accented English. It was a reminder that music crosses all borders—national, religious, and cultural.

Only one song on the program, “Shir Am Naki” (A Clean Folk Song; or, the Song of a Clean Nation), came straight out of the kibbutz tradition. It describes one of the main preparations for the Sabbath: bathing in the communal showers and coming down the path in a veritable parade of freshly washed and combed heads, some with a part in the middle and some with a part on the side. What other constellation of human experience could have produced such a song?

My favorite part of the program was the cantata Navidad Nuestra (Our Nativity), by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramirez. The composer, who died earlier this year, is best known for his Misa Criolla (Creole mass), which he once said he had written in response to a visit to post-Holocaust Germany.

“I felt that I had to compose something deep and religious that would revere life and involve people beyond their creeds, race, color or origin,” he is reported to have told The Jerusalem Post.

Like the Misa Criolla, Navidad Nuestro incorporates Latin American folk instruments, tunes, and rhythms. Israel’s Latino America ensemble, founded in 1998, accompanied the choir with various instruments, including a bandoneon (a type of concertina) and a charango (a small stringed instrument of the lute family).

The performance—conducted by Yuval Ben-Ozer and with soloist Tal Koch—was a foot-tapper, though I’ve never heard one as good as that of Los Fronterizos, whose recording of the mass and the cantata for Philips I’ve listened to dozens of times.

The concert was part of the Etnachta series, free weekly chamber music concerts, every Monday at 5, produced and edited by Hayuta Devir. The series is an endangered species that Devir has been fighting tooth and nail to keep alive.

And the freedom to sing the most beautiful musical offerings of all religions in Jerusalem—will we have to fight for that too? Or will we overcome the madness of the city and always be able to “involve people beyond their creeds, race, color or origin”?

For more on religion and the power of music see my post “From Kol Nidre to yoga nidra,” on September 24.

Text copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.