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Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra to perform last concert

CM 29/07/2021

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As the pandemic dragged on, and the financial fallout for one and all became ever more tangible and threatening, many in the world of culture wondered whether they would get through it all in one piece. While there was state support for some of the leading outfits, in various disciplines, some smaller ventures, and individuals, sadly fell by the wayside.

That unfortunate state of affairs has now brought the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra (IKO) to its knees. This Sunday at 8 p.m., the orchestra will perform its last concert at the Tel Aviv Museum. The event goes by the name of “20 Year Old Love,” with Yaron Gottfried on the conductor’s podium directing the efforts of the outgoing ensemble alongside vocalists and instrumentalists from the Rimon School of Music.
There is nothing serendipitous about the confluence, as 53-year-old conductor, pianist and composer Gottfried also makes ends meet as head of the Composition, Arranging and Conducting Department at Rimon. A little lower down on his bulging professional biography one can also find an 11 year stint as music director and principal conductor of the IKO, ending in 2013.
So for Gottfried to direct matters on Sunday, with his former IKO charges and his current disciples at Rimon, will be quite an emotional affair and he is not best pleased about the way things have worked out. “It is very bad that the orchestra is disappearing,” he says. “This isn’t just some fly-by-night outfit. This a serious orchestra that was around for 50 years. And we always used to go to perform in places where no other ensembles went. No one else does that. This is a very heavy social and cultural loss.”
It is, indeed, tragic that such an illustrious company, that toured the world for decades and presented innovative programs that ran the gamut from the tried and trusted crowd-pleasers of the classical world, through to contemporary material, is shuffling off its mortal coil. “We should be celebrating this important orchestra, rather than burying it,” Gottfried notes. “This is not a proud moment for the state of Israel.”

That is now all over, bar Sunday’s last hurrah, and the museum concert will reflect the IKO’s longstanding eclectic philosophy, as well as the conductor’s all-embracing take on his craft.
Over the past three decades Gottfried has written, played, recorded and conducted a broad range of works, taking in charts by the Beethovens, Mozarts, Bachs and Handels of this world, contemporary pieces and his own exploratory creations that delve into multi-layered tonal areas, compositions that address very real existential issues, and others that delve into Gottfried’s own psyche and emotional baggage.
And, when he is not conducting or playing in classical concerts Gottfried likes to ply his way through more improvisational fare, often delivery jazzy renditions of classical works, or playing jazz standards.
He has made a habit of spreading his gifts across numerous styles. “When I started with the orchestra I began expanding the repertoire,” he recalls. “That proved to be a success, and we were able to access lots of different people. But that is the way I approach music anyway, not just with the orchestra. My approach connects different musical worlds, but without making compromises. It is not just a matter of, say, combining classical music with jazz. The end product has to have a deep and genuine artistic value.”
As is the case with the forthcoming date with the IKO and Gottfried’s Rimon School students. The concert, which will be a tale of two multifarious parts, embraces works by Bach, and by iconic Arabic composer Mohammed Abd El-Wahab, hassidic melodies and nuggets from the Israeli Songbook, with works by the likes of late Israel Prize laureates Moshe Vilensky and Sasha Argov, and internationally renowned world music star Idan Reichel. And if that wasn’t varied enough, the museum audience will also be entertained with Brazilian tunes from the bossa nova, choro and samba styles, and even some intriguing orchestral arrangements of Irish numbers.
All of that comes naturally to Gottfried. “That reflects the versatility of the program at Rimon,” he explains. “That, to a great degree, reflects my own thinking, as the person at the head of the program.” It is, he feels, just an extension on the current zeitgeist in musical circles. “To my mind, today, it is not sufficient to stick to just a single style. I think that many musicians, and not just the young ones, look at all sorts of styles and genres. I think that is a requisite of the modern music world. Things are much more open now, in most orchestras.”
It is, he feels, very much a matter of addressing the sum of the individual parts. “If you have an ensemble of 40 instrumentalists, it has to be multilayered, you have to look at a wealth of artistic dimensions.”
Gottfried also got his students fully and proactively on board for the project in hand, by getting them to do some spadework, including on their own turf. “You can bring a different identity into something, say, from the world of Jewish music. I asked my students to investigate their own roots. I told them to look at something they want to play. It didn’t have to be an Israeli song. They go, for example, to their parents and they get all sorts of treasures from them.” That stands to reason as, consciously or subconsciously, musicians tend to feed off the sounds that met their nonjudgmental young ears in their formative years. “There may be some song a musician’s parents or grandparents sang to them when they were little. That has a telling, and lasting, impact on them through life. That connects with the person themselves. There are all sorts of personal connections, through life experiences, that produce really interesting musical end results.”
Sadly, for the IKO, the end result is terminal. But let’s hope the youngsters Gottfried is nurturing continue to fly their personal and artistic flag for many years to come.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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