Musicians by the score on the shore

Isrotel Classicameri, the annual music event in Eilat conceived by the Isrotel Hotel chain together with the Israeli Chamber Orchestra, takes place for the 13th time. This year the festival is extended over two weekends – January 27-30 and February 2-6.

Over the years, not only the ticket sales but also the musical quality of the festival have improved considerably. This year’s varied program, put together by the artists’ coordinator Zusia Rodan, artistic director Roberto Paternostro and some of the ICO members, features classical concerts by the orchestra, chamber and vocal music, as well as jazz and ethnic music. The impressive list of participants includes internationally acclaimed pianists Alon Goldstein and Ian Fountain, who will also appear as a conductor; violinist Latica Honda Rosenberg, who captivated the Classicameri audience last year with her passionate musicianship; opera singers Sharon Rostorf Zamir and Orit Gabriel; jazz musicians Ofer Portugali and Matan Klein; and the Balkan music ensemble Ciocarlie.

Last year, Roberto Paternostro, a reputed European conductor, stepped into the position of leader of the ICO. He has come with clear ideas of what could be done to try to help to the chamber orchestra which, to be honest, has known better times.

“I try to change a lot of things,” said Paternostro in a phone interview from Vienna. “As I promised, I took the orchestra to tours in Germany and Austria, where the ICO participated in several festivals. Many good guest conductors and soloists come to perform with the orchestra.” He adds that young musicians have joined the ICO, and he is developing an attractive program for next season. “But of course it is difficult for me to judge my own job.”

He says there is a “money problem, but this is no different from other Israeli orchestras, and we have a new director, Eran Hershkovitz, who’s looking after it.”

In regard to the upcoming Classicameri Festival, Paternostro says he sees it as a very high-quality musical event and notices that “it is quite difficult to create a program for a six-day festival with concerts from morning ‘til late at night.”

The ICO recently made headlines in the media in Israel and abroad.

This summer, the orchestra will go to the very citadel of Wagnerism – Bayreuth – to perform a piece by the composer who was known for his vitriolic character and world view in general and his outspoken anti- Semitism in particular. Since Wagner’s music is unofficially banned in Israel, the ICO’s plans have caused an outcry among some Israelis and garnered support from others.

“I’m not going to repeat my life story; it has been covered more than once in the Israeli media,” says Paternostro, who comes from a mixed Jewish-Italian background. A part of his family perished in the Holocaust, while others made it to Palestine.

“I see it as an important step. In Bayreuth we are going to play Mendelssohn, Mahler, Zvi Avni, as well as Wagner. We are not going there as an Israeli orchestra who plays Wagner but rather we shall play 80 minutes of Jewish and Israeli music, which we are proud to represent, and 20 minutes of Wagner. If there is such a thing as Jewish music,” he laughs.

But musically speaking, what is the importance of playing Wagner at all?

“Playing Wagner is extremely important,” stresses Paternostro. “I’m not talking about his operas, as well as their contents, but every musician will tell you that Wagner’s compositions made a huge step forward towards a new era in music, that of Schoenberg and Alban Berg. Without Wagner, there would not be Mahler, Bruckner and other composers. Wagner’s music is an essential link between old Romantic music, like that of Schumann, and modern-day music.”

For more Classicameri details and reservations: http://www.isrotel.co.il/events/classicameri/

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