May 2009

Israel Makes Music
Presented by the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation
May 19, 2009 Glenn Gould Studio Toronto
Virtuosi in the Making
by Tova G. Kardonne
It was the oboe that lured me to this one. Normally, the promise of Brahms, Ravel, and Handel for piano, violin and oboe would have been lure enough, but the Fantasia for Solo Oboe clinched it. I mean. Solo Oboe. Rock on.

Alas, the concert was not as skewed as I am towards the oboe, the title, not “Solo Oboe — Rock On,” but rather, “Israel Makes Music” told the tale. It was more about the very young, very skilled players and visitors to the Glen Gould Studio from Israel. Presented by the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation, the performance featured Hagar Maoz on violin, Gili Loftus on piano, and Natti Amrany on oboe. I haven’t got exact ages on them, but seeing that they are all serving in the IDF as “Distinguished Musicians,” they can none of them be more than 21, which, to hear them play, is pretty hard to believe.

Seeing them on stage, however, their youth is believable. Each one introduced their pieces with a bit of background about the composer, a bit of explanation of the themes of the piece, and a little about what the piece meant to them. It was charming and informative, even as it revealed their nerves. Amrany opened the program with Schumann’ Romanzen Opus 94 for Oboe and Piano, on which Loftus provided the accompaniment. What beautiful tone. Rich and full-throated, with none of the ducky timbre to which the instrument is subject — though Amrany was slightly prone to rushing the 16th-note passages, a tendency that would reappear through the program. Then came the Fantasia by Telemann for solo oboe, a baroque chord progression with upward-flung intervals that have to be caught like juggled linguini — at a height, and sliding through elegantly threaded chromatic arcs.

Maoz, on violin, then introduced Brahms’ Sonata No. 1 in G major, accompanied by Loftus. Maoz’ timid demeanor belied the maturity of her technique on the violin. When she and Loftus performed the layered, overlapping cascades of notes in the Adagio, their interaction was seamless and delicately magical. The passages in which Maoz managed both the melody and harmony in double-stops with dynamic finesse were impressive and controlled. It was only when she finished off the Allegro molto Moderato with a fiery flourish that I realized quite how controlled she had been. I would have liked to have seen more of that intensity throughout the rest of the Sonata, even, dare I say, at the cost of some control.

When Gili Loftus then took the stage on her own to play Ravel’s “Ondine” from Gaspard de la Nuit, it was clear that she had had more experience speaking to an audience, and no less experience playing for one. This was the emotional peak of the evening, not only because of the Ravel’s tremendous scope for infusions of personal flair, but also because of Loftus’ obvious connection to this piece’s stated inspiration — a pre-Hans Christian Anderson telling of the Little Mermaid story. The rainbows and sprays of water, the slow tears in the mermaid’s eyes, the bewitching laughter heard across the water, all were tangible in Loftus’ performance. Her presence, mastery of the material, and passion, combined to make for a memorable performance.

Handel’s Trio Sonata No. 1 rounded off the evening, followed by an encore performance of "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav", an old and beloved Israeli folksong. And, of course, dessert and schmoozing in the lobby, where the musicians shyly allowed us to gush immoderately.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tova G. Kardonne
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