Schubert’s music is intimate, morose, often witty, and slightly fantastical. So the intimate and cozy Einav Cultural Center in Tel-Aviv served perfectly as the setting for a marathon concert dedicated to his work.
A “Schubertiade” is a Schubert celebration dedicated to his huge body of work. The Schubertiade last night was a celebration with a bang: a marathon concert with the participation of nearly twenty musicians, and clocking in at about three and a half hours of music. To keep the audience attentive the concert was broken into three chunks, each about an hour or so long.
The stage was set to suggest a warm Viennese salon: Persian rugs on either side of the piano. On the left, a painting of Schubert presided over the concert. A beautiful vase with a rich arrangement of Daisies and Birds-of-Paradise sat on the right, shadowed by a projector screen. This screen was used to project Hebrew translations of the German texts, and in the few pieces which were not vocal, paintings of Schubertiades from the 19th century.
The whole evening had the feeling of a historical reenactment dedicated to Schubert, who during his lifetime was an under-appreciated and virtually unknown composer. The main outlets for his creative work were at social gatherings held in middle class salons. At these events Schubert would play at the piano, and when the room was rapt with attention, present his latest works or lieder.
In between pieces Yossi Schiffmann played the part of the host, telling stories about Schubert in his inviting and friendly voice, yet never-quite lecturing. A few times he even conducted small unrehearsed interviews with some of the musicians and once even called on an audience member, Tzvi Tzoran, who had written a book on Schubert. This helped to lend the concert a relaxed and unofficial air, as if we were all friends of Schubert, come together to hear his latest.
The night was not without flaws, as no concert of this magnitude can be: intermittently during the first third of the concert an annoying hum could be heard from one of the speakers. Thankfully this was fixed during the break. An amusing miscalculation caused the audience to giggle a few times: occasionally some of the singers inadvertently stood in the projector beam, therefore getting colorful paintings projected onto their black clothing.
In a marathon like this with so many pieces and an army of performers, I naturally cannot comment on every performance. Below are the highlights of the evening.
The high points of the first part were in my opinion the Choral works, performed with great charm by the “Venezia” Vocal Ensemble and conducted/accompanied by Ethan Schmeisser. The all-women choir sang as one and maintained a good balance. Ethan Schmeisser played with great passion and was very charismatic. They were later joined by Ayala Zimbler, the evening’s wonderful mezzo-soprano, for the Serenade “Zoegernd Liese”.
After a short break during which refreshments were served downstairs, the second and strongest part of the evening began. I feel that a certain climax was achieved with the two duets sung by Daniella Lugassi (Soprano) and Eitan Drory (Tenor) and accompanied by Ido Ariel (piano). “Licht Und Liebe – Nachtgesang” was performed especially well, with the performers exhibiting great talent and sensitivity to one another.
The first real crowd pleaser of the evening was the Rondo in B minor (Op. 70 D.895) for Violin and Piano. This under-performed gem is often obscured by the much more popular Fantasy in C major, so the choice to perform it is laudable. The performers were Itamar Zorman (Violin) and Daniel Gortler (Piano). Itamar played from memory and so was free to move about the stage playing the violin part with great virtuosity. The crowd absolutely loved it and erupted with a massive roar, calling the musicians back to the stage again and again.
Just before the intermission we were treated to an amusing comic scene, “Hochzeitsbraten” for three voices, sung in Hebrew. Ido Ariel’s translation of the text is fanciful and elicited more than a few giggles from the crowd. The scene describes a couple getting caught hunting their wedding roast in the king’s forest. Performers: Daniella Lugassi as the wife, Eitan Drory as the husband, Gabriel Lowenheim as the hunter, and accompanied by Ido Ariel. Lugassi and Drory made a charming couple, and Lowenheim played the part of the bewildered villain very well.
After the second and last break we returned to hear a few more lieder by Daniella Lugassi, the last of which was the famous “Die Forelle”, The Trout, which Lugassy sang wonderfully and with obvious pleasure. This was followed by the largest and most substantial piece of the evening – The Trout Quintet for Piano and Strings in A. The Trout Quintet is based on the Lied, and this is apparent especially in the fourth movement which is a set of variations on the song. The musicians were pianist Daniel Gortler, violinist Itamar Zorman, violist Yael Patish, cellist Raz Kohn, and double bassist Orit Zelniker. Their performance was enjoyable and was the perfect sendoff for the sleepy audience members who had survived the four hour concert.