|Inbar Goldmann, Avigail Malachi-Baev, and Elad Kabilio|
When Music Talks, we listen! There is a reason for Elad Kabilio's success with his Music Talks. One reason is his enthusiasm and commitment to his work; the other is his giving the music world something unique. Perhaps these two features are common to all successful people.
Last night's presentation, given at the Center for Jewish History, attracted such a large audience that there was standing room only. The theme was Jerusalem-- as a symbol of longing for peace, for home, for a place of one's own.
We do not know whether Judaism is a religion, a race, a nationality, a birthright, or a chosen identity; but we do know that there is a culture that has been sustained over centuries in spite of persecution, ethnic cleansing, and the holocaust. To many Jews, Jerusalem represents a state of mind as well as a geographical place.
What Mr. Kabilio's Music Talks offers is education and illumination along with entertainment. What he relates is always interesting and conveyed with gusto, then illustrated with music. (If there is a word for aural "illustration" we hope one of our readers will comment below!)
These programs are so interesting that we find ourselves widening our musical horizons beyond opera. That being said, we were delighted that the program featured a most unusual arrangement (by the three artists themselves) of Verdi's "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves" from his opera Nabucco. The strong voice of mezzo-soprano Inbar Goldmann carried the melody with Avigail Malachi-Baev's clarinet playing some gorgeous arpeggios and the cello filling in the bass line.
In the opera, the Hebrew slaves are held captive in Babylon and long for their homeland. This chorus is famous in Italy as "Va pensiero" and was important in Verdi's time. Although there is some historical revisionism occurring, it has long been thought to be important to the Risorgimento and a rebellion against foreign rule. It almost became the Italian national anthem; it succeeded as the anthem of one of their many political parties.
The rest of the program was new to us. We heard songs about Jerusalem coming from both traditions of Judaism--Sephardic (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazic (European). We did not hear that much of a difference but we did very much enjoy the singing in Ladino, a form of early Spanish spoken by Spanish Jews. Prior to the Inquisition, Spain enjoyed an artistically fertile period during which the three Abrahamic religions coexisted peacefully! Imagine that!
In any case, the language sings beautifully and much of it was easy to understand to anyone who speaks Spanish.
Hebrew, on the other hand, was resurrected when the state of Israel was formed. This new country needed a language and its own music. Much of this music was created by women. Tzvi Avni set psalms to music and we heard "Yefe Nof".
We also heard klezmer music which we had thought of as Ashkenazic, but to our ear it didn't sound all that different. There was a definite Middle-Eastern feel to it in the melodies played by the clarinet. There was also a section with a very high tessitura. The second piece was identified as a celebration song; it is played at Jewish weddings and all the guests rise and join in a circular dance; it is called "Hava Nagila". Interestingly, this melody was brought to Palestine by Hasidic Jews from Europe and has an interesting history, available online to the curious.
We heard a song known as "the second anthem" of Jerusalem in which the cello initiated and played an embellished line filled with turns and trills; the voice joined in, and finally the clarinet. This was composed by a woman.
We also heard "Kaddish" from Deux Melodies Hebraique by Ravel, transposed for cello.
It goes without saying that the musicianship was excellent. We have always enjoyed Mr. Kabilio's cello but this is the first time we heard Ms. Malachi-Baev's clarinet and it was quite lovely. Ms. Goldmann's voice is strong and passionate and she clearly connected to the music she sang. But it wasn't until the final piece about peace ("Salaam") when she sang "off the book" that we felt her connection with the audience.
We are always grateful to Mr. Kabilio for expanding our musical horizons!
(c) meche kroop