The first three parts of J.S.Bach’s Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 were recently performed in two performances in Jerusalem and one in Bethlehem. With Gunther M. Goettsche (music director of the Redeemer Church, Jerusalem) and Erwin Meyer sharing the conducting, members of three choirs – the Choir of the Redeemer Church (Jerusalem), of the Schmidt Schule (Jerusalem) and of the Olive Branches Choir (Bethlehem) joined to form a large chorus. They were joined by the Belvedere Chamber Orchestra Weimar (Germany). Soloists were Heidrun Goettsche-soprano, Anne-Marieke Evers-alto, Sebastian Hübner-tenor and Samuel Lawrence Berlad-bass. This writer attended the performance at the Dormition Abbey, Mt. Zion, in which Erwin Meyer was conductor. Father Nikodemus, of the Dormition Abbey, offered words of welcome to the large audience.


Bach’s Christmas Oratorio was completed around Christmas in 1734. Its format is that of a cantata, with the tenor Evangelist narrating the story of the birth of Christ. All texts sung by the Evangelist are minimally accompanied in order to give the Gospel texts prominence. From Christmas Day to Epiphany in the 18th century, the town of Leipzig celebrated the birth of Jesus and the events surrounding it with six commemorations taking place between Christmas Day and the Feast of Epiphany. At each of those events, Bach’s congregation was presented with a single cantata of the Christmas Oratorio, recounting one of the stories, their biblical texts accompanied by reflective texts. The three first cantatas heard at the Jerusalem and Bethlehem performances feature the first three celebrating the birth of Jesus (December 25th), the shepherds’ adoration of the baby (December 27th) and the circumcision and naming of Jesus (New Year’s Day).


From the opening five-note phrase on the timpani, the performance at the Dormition Abbey was one of joy. Choruses, with the chorales reflecting the voice of the people, were well coordinated and articulate; the singers were attentive, their phrases shaped, full of impetus and energy, making for rewarding choral performance. Served well by his bright, rich and agreeable tenor voice, Sebastian Hübner gave the narrative spontaneity and flexibility, at times urgency and even suspense. In the virtuosic “Joyful shepherds, hurry, ah hurry”, he and the orchestra’s very excellent flautist in the obligato role communicated and embellished with alacrity. Honorary professor at the Heidelberg University of Church Music, Sebastian Hübner has a wide repertoire, has premiered new works and is a member of the Schola Heidelberg Ensemble.


There was much natural warmth and richness in the singing of German-American baritone Samuel Lawrence Berlad, standing in for bass Peter Schüler, who had taken ill. His mix of mellifluousness and dramatic flair gave colour and life to text and music, as in the dialogue with obligato trumpet in “Great Lord, O mighty king”.  An opera singer, Samuel Berlad is also a Jewish cantorial singer and voice teacher, heading the vocal department of the Tel Aviv Cantorial Institute. Dutch-born mezzo-soprano Anne-Marieke Evers, much specialized in performance of early music, dealt with the alto recitatives and arias with outstanding vocal presence, projecting her voice amply and with natural ease into the acoustic space of the church. In the aria “Sleep, my dearest”, she recreated this moving jewel of a lullaby in gentle, empathic yet substantial singing, as the basso continuo repeated the note g in octave leaps to depict rocking the baby. With a minimum in the way of solo soprano arias, we heard duets with tenor and bass from renowned voice teacher Heidrun Goettsche. Pronouncing the angel’s words (in effect, God’s words) “Do not fear”, the recitative accompanied by held chords in the strings, we heard one of the girls of the Schmidt School choir, her clean, fresh voice conveying the message of solemnity, succour and hope.


Members of the Belvedere Orchestra Weimar (concertmaster: Johannes Müller) are all students at the Music Gymnasium Schloss Weimar, a selective high school for talented young musicians from Germany and other countries. The orchestra was outstanding throughout the performance, its balance, intonation and obligato roles refined, sophisticated and subtle. Conductor, piano accompanist and composer Erwin Meyer, director of the Olive Branches Choir (Bethlehem), drew all the participants together in conducting that was articulate, expressive and exhilarating.  A fine mix of people from many communities attended the festive event.



Photo: Maria Ciocan





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Yamato Japanese Drumming Troupe Arrives for Three Performances in Israel


Gad Oron Producction ( Israel ) presents 

C:\Users\Roni\Documents\אירועים\YAMATO 2016\חומרים\לוגו\O-tomoe3.jpg


World tour 2016


Yamato, The Drummers of Japan, have arrived in Israel as part of their 2016 world tour, Feel the Beat. The legendary drumming troupe, whose art reflects a tradition that is 1,500 years old, is giving three performances in the country: in the Haifa Auditorium on December 10, at Heichal Hatarbut in Tel Aviv on December 12, and at the Beersheba Center for the Performing Arts on December 14.


All the performances are scheduled to begin at 20.30.




December 10 Haifa
December 12  Tel Aviv
December 14 Beer Sheva


Tickets for the Tel Aviv performance may be ordered by phoning


8780* Tel Aviv
14.12.16   8949* Beer Sheva
Photos provided by PR 
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The Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra’s second concert for the 2016-2017 season offered Baroque music aficionados a unique program. This writer attended the event, “A Christmas Special”, in the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship of the Jerusalem International YMCA on December 8th 2016.


Due to illness of one of one of the artists, there was a last-minute program change: instead of J.S.Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.6, we heard Bach’s Trio Sonata for organ BWV 527 performed in the traditional Baroque trio sonata format by Idit Shemer-flute, Noam Schuss-violin, Orit Messer-Jacobi-‘cello and JBO founder and musical director David Shemer-organ. The Sonatas for Organ (BWV 525-530) from around 1730, (they may also have been played on pedal-clavichord or pedal-harpsichord) written when J.S.Bach was tutoring his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann in organ and composition, are made up of earlier composed instrumental movements, newly composed movements and older organ works. With Johann Sebastian’s choice of clear textures for this instructional material, requiring the young organist to exercise total independence of hands and feet, what distinguish these works from other organ repertoire are their textures which imitate the instrumental trio sonata, inviting a variety of transcriptions which date from the 18thcentury to today.  Addressing the fact that they are neither the flamboyant toccatas and fugues nor the chorale-preludes imbued with mystery, the JBO artists did not dispense with the intimate and eloquent character both of the piece and also of the Baroque instrumental sound, despite its performance in a hall. With Idit Shemer playing a Baroque traverso flute, the other instrumentalists pared down their volume to what resulted in chamber music of fine transparency and poetic nuance, with sympathetic contrapuntal dialogues woven between flute and violin. A nice aperitif to the evening and presented by core JBO players.


Then to Dietrich Buxtehude’s (c.1637-1707) cantata cycle “Membra Jesu Nostri” (The Limbs of Our Jesus) BuxWV 75, a mystical work based on a collection of hymns in which each cantata represents the glance of a believer, standing at the foot of the cross, as he addresses parts of Christ’s body, his focus moving upwards from Christ’s feet to his face. The text, thought to have been written by Cistercian monk Arnulf de Louvain (c.1200-1250), reflects the rise of 17th century Lutheran pietism and its characteristic subjectively emotional sentiments. Each cantata is constructed along the same lines, the opening instrumental sinfonia followed by a “dictum”, an aria of three stanzas, with the dictum repeated at the end. The composer only breaks this form in the last cantata, where the repeated dictum is replaced by a lavish Amen. The work is scored for a small ensemble and five singers, the latter singing solos and small group- and tutti sections. The JBO instrumentalists were joined by members of Ensemble PHOENIX (founder and musical director: Myrna Herzog) and Tal Ganor-soprano, Anat Czarny-mezzo-soprano, Avital Dery-mezzo-soprano, Hillel Sherman-tenor and Guy Pelc-bass. In performance that was unforced rather than dramatic, with emphasis on clear diction, David Shemer led instrumentalists and singers through the work, preserving its meditative, devout and soul-searching character. For Cantata No.6, the instrumental sound world changes markedly: the violinists stand down and four viol players join ‘cello, theorbo and organ in a mellow, velvety setting to present “To the Heart”. This is indeed the heart of the work. The original ensemble returns for the final cantata and the viols are gone. The choruses presented a lively and interesting mix of vocal timbres, with vocal trios highlighting intensity of texts.  Add to that Anat Czarny’s attractive, radiant voice, Avital Dery’s spiritual understanding of the work, Hillel Sherman’s burgeoning, natural tenor, Guy Pelc’s gentle intensity and Tal Ganor’s creamy, blending timbre. Ganor, just a little too careful, could have projected her voice further into the YMCA hall.   The instrumentalists, including the evocative sound of the theorbo (Eliav Lavi), seized every opportunity to add interest and beauty to a work that is quite exquisite.


In his program notes, Maestro Shemer speaks of the fact that the music of the “veritable giant” Buxtehude “has not had fitting representation on Israeli music platforms”. The impact this performance has had (more Easter-oriented than Christmas) will hopefully mean that we hear more works of the Danish-German genius, whose music had such a profound influence on J.S.Bach.


Photo: Maxim Reider






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The 2016-7 season of the Israel Opera Company debuted on November 30 with a rousing performance of the opera Norma, by Vincenzo Bellini. The production, by Teatro of Torino, was conducted by Daniel Oren of the Opera Orchestra: Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon Lezion.



The lead roles of Norma and Pollione were sung by soprano Hrachuhi Bassenz and Gustavo Porta respectively. At the curtain calls, Ms. Bassenz received the longest sustained applause for her bravura performance. Ms. Bassenz will be alternating in the role of Norma with Maria Pia Piscitelli and Ira Bertman.



The outstanding male performer of the evening was bass-baritone Carlo Striulli in the role of Oroveso, the Druid chieftain.  



The stage scenery is as minimalistic as you will ever see in an opera production: monolithic blocks of stone that slide back and forth like curtains to create larger and smaller spaces for the action to take place. Still, the plain giant boulders had a simplistic grandeur about them.





The costuming was impressive, especially of the Druid warriors. The matching of Norma’s burgundy dress with Ms. Bassenz’s red hair was particularly striking.



The Israel Opera’s production of Norma runs through Dec. 17.


The Opera House


19 Shaul Hamelech Boulevard

Tel Aviv 61332

Tel: +972-3-692-7777
Fax: +972-3-692-7733



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