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In “A Celebration of Two Pianos” a new piano duo on the Israeli concert scene – Ariel Halevy and Misha Zartsekel – played to a full house at the Felicja Blumental Music Center (Tel Aviv) on January 21st 2016. Born in Jerusalem, Ariel Halevy began his piano studies at the Conservatory of the Jerusalem Academy of Music, receiving bachelor and master’s degrees from the Mannes School of Music (New York). As a soloist and recitalist he performs internationally, also leading a busy teaching life. In 2015, he recorded late Brahms piano works for the RomeoRecords label. Born in Rostov, southern Russia, Misha Zartsekel moved to Moscow at age 9. He immigrated to Israel in 2000, working with Rietta Lisokhin in Haifa as well as Prof. Itzhak Katz and Yaron Rosenthal at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. A recitalist and chamber musician, he has soloed with orchestras in Israel and abroad.


The program opened with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto for two Harpsichords in C-major BWV 1061, the composer’s only work for two keyboards. Probably originally composed for two harpsichords from the outset, an orchestral accompaniment was added, possibly not by Bach. In the latter, the keyboard instruments play less against the orchestra, conversing more with each other, so that the two keyboards alone produce a full and satisfying musical setting. And now that we have come a safe distance from the stringency of the Authentic Early Music Movement, it is time to reconsider the performance of Bach on the piano. Halevy and Zartsekel gave a bold, clean and fresh reading of the concerto, their use of the sustaining pedal never blurring a line as they presented each motif with articulacy. Their absolute precision of timing provided a most splendid basis for the counterpoint to play out its complex game of melodic strands. Following the personal expression of the 2nd movement – Adagio ovvero Largo – in which the artists allowed themselves immerse themselves within the affect, they gave an exhilarating, dynamic and contrasted reading of the final movement – Fuga – a true celebration of the king of Baroque contrapuntal forms.


Johannes Brahms was introduced to a set of divertimenti for winds attributed to Haydn in 1870. He liked the theme of the second, the Chorale St. Antoni, a hymn sung by pilgrims on St. Anthony’s Day, copying the melody into his notebook. In 1873, he showed the two-piano version of his variations on the theme to Clara Schumann; she and Brahms gave it its first airing at a private gathering in Bonn that year. An orchestral version followed, being referred to as opus 56a, whereas the piano version is 56b, was published later. Critical of his own previous- but well-received sets of variations and those of his contemporaries, he wrote to violinist Joseph Joachim in 1856, claiming that in writing variations “we cling nervously to the melody…we don’t handle it freely” and “we merely overload it”. Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme by Haydn” were a turning point on that score. They are also a mammoth undertaking on the part of the pianists. Halevy and Zartsekel gave a rich rendition of Brahms’ “orchestration” of the piano. Nuanced with the strong, rewarding timbres of the Romantic soundscape, the artists’ playing took the listener from lyrical, singing melodies, to moments of urgency, to the sober, haunting message of the “minore” Variation IV, to a variation of breathless garrulousness that pushes bar-lines aside as it forges its way ahead (Variation V), to chordal textures, to the lovingly-treated and gently hesitating personal utterances of the Siciliano ((Variation VII), to the illusive sleight-of-hand of the last variation, ending with the wink of an eye. Their committed playing of the massive Finale endorsed Brahms’ aim to extend the boundaries of the variation form.


Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No.1 opus 5, the “Fantasie-Tableaux”, inspired by a stay in the Russian countryside, was the composer’s first attempt at writing program music. It was written when the composer was just 20 years old. The work, however, shows a mature approach to the technical, tonal and interpretive resources of the two-piano medium. Each movement is headed by a quotation from one of four poets. Halevy and Zartsekel created each of the tableaus insightfully, lending magic and luxuriant colour to the layering of the opening Barcarolle, with its underlying hint of sadness, then evoking an intense description of night “La nuit…l’amour” (Night…Love), the cascading scales and copious trills forming the material of fantasy. A quote from Lord Byron’s poem “Parisina” introduces “La nuit”:


“It is the hour from when the boughs
The nightingale’s high note is heard;
It is the hour – when lovers’ vows
Seem sweet in every whisper’d word;
And gentle winds and waters near,
Make music to the lonely ear…”


“Les larmes” (Tears) began with an almost visual picture of single teardrops falling onto a bare soundscape; then, as the textures fill out, the artists take the listener into the inner regions of the senses, the “sculpted” tears ever returning, laden with longing. Sweeping away the melancholy state of mind of the previous movements, “Pâques” (Easter) is an exuberant and extroverted depiction of bells ringing out on Easter morning, the characteristic “noise” and repetitiveness of bells present in a myriad of astounding textures. Beyond the technical versatility and strength required in playing the “Fantasie-Tableaux”, this performance was clearly the result of deep enquiry into the fine details and meaning of this masterpiece.


Ending on a more light-hearted note, the artists performed W.A.Mozart’s Sonata in D-major for Two Pianos K.448, the composer’s only work for two pianos. This was not one of the composer’s duets played by him and his sister; indeed, the first piano part was played by Josepha von Auernhammer, a young woman who, it seems, had designs on the still single Mozart in 1781. In this work, constituting Mozart at his most galant, Halevy and Zartsekel brought the spirit of the Viennese salon and its fine entertainment to the audience at the Blumental Center, with Mozart’s graceful, songful music, its elegance and exhilarating virtuosity amounting to a true masterwork. In playing that was solid, positive and well contrasted, the opening movement breathed Mozart’s joy and positive outlook, also his modesty, as the two artists listened, matched and supported each other, with the Andante (2nd movement) setting the listener’s heart afloat with its charm and tender gestures, the artists’ phrases finely chiselled. With the engaging energy of the Allegro molto, the artists sent the audience home with a sense of well-being in which Mozart’s playful, refreshingly naïve and carefree agenda was alive with the joy of the piano duo.

 

A duo for only a year, Misha Zartsekel and Ariel Halevy share the music with warm resonance, clarity, precision and well balanced sonorities, with a strong sense of cooperation and of sharing.

 

 Pamela Hickman's Music Interviews Blog http://pamelahickmansmusicinterviews.blogspot.co.il/

 

Pamela Hickman's Concert Critique Blog http://pamelahickmansblog.blogspot.co.il/

 

 

 

 

On Thursday evening, July 20th, the Embassy of Colombia in Tel Aviv celebrated Colombia’s National Day, the anniversary of the signing of the country’s declaration of independence. The event was held at the beautiful home of Colombian Ambassador to Israel, H.E. Mr. Fernando Alzate Donoso, and  wife Mrs.Nancy, in Kfar Shmaryahu.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Wednesday, 19 July 2017), held a series of bilateral meetings with the heads of government of the Visegard Group: Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico. (Prime Minister Netanyahu met yesterday with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.)

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​PM Netanyahu: We face common challenges, the first of which is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world and threaten both our countries. We must stand together in this battle, much as we work together to perfect the future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, this evening (Tuesday, 4 July 2017), at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The EU Delegation in Israel and the Municipality of Tel-Aviv-Yafo presented:  Performance Europa!
Urban celebration of live performances and interactive installations
Tel Aviv’s White Night ,Rothschild 1 Plaza, 29 June 

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 On 11 June 2017, the 5thPhilippine Tourism and Country Fair organized by the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv,Municipality of Haifa and Castra Mall, opened in a festive atmosphere in the northern city of Haifa as the Philippines tries to sustain the rapid tourism growth from Israel.

During the one-day event, simultaneous activities on tourism and cultural promotion and highlights of the 60 years of strong bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel were featured at the Castra Mall. Around 800 Israelis and Filipinos enjoyed the cultural program that showcased multi-awarded Filipino soprano singer, Ms. Francis Anne “Princess” Virtudazo, and the best talents from the Filipino community in Israel.

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Over 60 leading women from across the world joined together last month for a panel discussion showcasing Israeli females in the lead.
Organized by The Israel Project (TIP) and the Embassy of Cyprus in Israel, the event served as a platform to discuss and understand the challenges and opportunities facing women in Israeli society in the modern age.
Among the panelists were popular journalist Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes. Former IDF commander Miri Eisin and Israeli Olympic athlete Maayan Davidovich.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, today (Thursday, 15 June 2017), in Thessaloniki, at the third trilateral summit, signed joint statements for the continued strengthening of relations.

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A senior delegation from Tanzania, headed by Dr. Aloyce Nzuki, Permanent Secretary Ministry for Natural Resources and Tourism, arrived in Israel for a series of meetings and events designed to increase cooperation with the Israeli tourist industry, and encourage Israeli tourism and investments to enchanted, exotic Tanzania.

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At a festive ceremony attended by Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, the Lauder Dormitory Building was inaugurated today at the Technion
state of the art building was donated to the Technion by World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and his wife Jo Carole

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09 June 2017 – Jerusalem) The U.S. Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Nikki Haley visited Yad Vashem today. The Ambassador was guided through the Holocaust History Museum by Dr. Robert Rozett, Director of Yad Vashem Libraries, participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, visited the Children's Memorial and signed the Yad Vashem Guest Book.

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President Reuven Rivlin today (Wednesday) met at his residence in Jerusalem with United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley.

President Rivlin welcomed her and said, “You are a dear friend of Israel. We appreciate your strong stand on the world’s most important stage, in support of the security of the people and the State of Israel. With your support we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone at the UN. Israel is no longer the UN’s punching bag.”

He continued, “When I spoke at the UN on Holocaust Memorial Day, I said that the UN must learn from the lessons of the past, and stand up against hatred and racism. I said it must end its obsession with targeting Israel. Progress has been made. Israel’s standing at the UN has improved. But sadly, we have a long way to go. Both in holding to account, public statements made by officials, and in supporting regulation to reduce the ridiculous number of discussions and resolutions against Israel. This is also true in the Human Rights Council - which has been hijacked as a weapon against Israel - and in UNESCO, where they seek to rub out the history of the Jewish people.”

The President thanked the Ambassador for her great contribution to the State of Israel, and said, “Ambassador Haley, as the representative the US - Israel’s greatest and strongest ally - we appreciate very much your support of Israel, and all you do to stand up for the values of freedom and democracy which we share. Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Haley thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “Thank you Mr. President for taking the time to meet with us, it is an absolute thrill to be here in Israel, I so much appreciate the support we have received from the people of Israel. But I feel somewhat guilty because all I did at the United Nations was tell the truth. I have never taken kindly to bullies, and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we are not going to let that happen anymore. It is a new day for Israel in the United Nations. We just got back from Geneva, talking about the Human Rights Council and hopefully it will be a new day at the Human Rights Council when it comes to Israel.”

She concluded by saying she was greatly looking forward to her visit to Israel and said, “I am looking forward to taking in the history, the beauty, the tradition, and all that comes with the magic of Israel. Thank you very much for having me it is a pleasure to be here.”

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

Friday was a beautiful late spring day; the gardens were lovely, the weather was fine; the guests were elegantly attired; the refreshments were generous and delicious; all the makings of a happy celebration marking the National Day of Sweden. H.E. Carl Magnus Nesser, ambassador of Sweden to the State of Israel, hosted the event at the ambassadorial residence in Herzlia Pituach.

The event was attended by many Swedish nationals living in Israel; Swedish music, Swedish food, Swedish sponsors and a generous open bar – all the makings of a happy event.

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A fundamentally agricultural holiday, Shavuot commemorates the custom of bringing offerings to the Holy Temple from the first fruits of the harvest and the first animals born to the flocks.

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Tel Aviv Eat presents three evenings of tastings and workshops featuring the region’s leading restaurants and most prominent chefs. Entrance is free (including the chefs’ demonstrations), and tasting portions range in price from NIS 20-35. Doors open each evening at 18.00. There are several performance stages, live music, and stands selling beer.

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"Only when we remember the families who were torn apart from everyone they loved, who suffered that terrible darkness and evil, who had endured the unbearable horror of the Holocaust, only then can we prevent this agony from ever repeating." President Donald J. Trump

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