The Israeli Chamber Project brings together some of today’s most distinguished musicians for chamber music concerts. They won the 2011 Israeli Ministry of Culture Outstanding Ensemble Award in recognition of its passionate musicianship and creative programming. Appearing for the first time in our series, they will perform a Françaix String Trio and piano quartets by Mozart and Strauss.
This concert is sponsored, in part, by the
Ann and Abe Effron Fund–Donor Advised
of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley
Artist Website: www.israelichamberproject.org
Carmit Zori, violin
Paul Neubauer, viola
Hillel Zori, cello
Assaff Weisman, piano
Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K.493 (1786) W. A. MOZART
String Trio (1933) JEAN FRANÇAIX
Allegretto vivo (1912-1997)
Piano Quartet in c Minor, Op.13 (1885) R. STRAUSS
Scherzo Presto — Molto meno mosso
Program subject to change.
Mozart actually created this new category of chamber music. Granted, there were examples of quartets before that included a keyboard instrument but those were concertante works for a keyboard (harpsichord or fortepiano) while the rest of instruments served as accompaniment or ornamentation. A concertante implies that a single instrument is given the solo emphasis at a point of time, while other instruments provide accompaniment. Viennese public of Mozart’s time who were accustomed to pleasing, fashionable compositions, adopted a reserved attitude to this music category. On top of that, the technical demand of Mozart’s piano quartets far exceeded the capabilities of amateurs, so these works were not suited for home performances. Mozart’s publisher commissioned three piano quartets but later rescinded the commission due to lack of interest. Mozart published the completed two piano quartets independently.
Overall, the E-flat major quartet has a bright, concertante character, especially in the First movement, Allegro, where the piano part is very virtuosic. The broadly sounding main theme, composed of descending quavers and a dotted fanfare motif, has an almost improvisational character. The whole movement is infused with a festive, cheerful mood, which does not in any way detract from the quality of treatment within the bounds of chamber music. The exceedingly beautiful middle, Second movement, Larghetto, in which the intimate melody for the most part is entrusted to the string instruments, while the piano provides an arabesque-like ornamentation. The gentle poetry of the movement is further accentuated by small echo effects. The lively Finale, Allegretto, is one again concertante in character. The beautiful rondo theme is announced by the violin and then picked up by the piano. Everything in this movement is bright and unproblematic.
Mozart never returned to this genre of chamber music. Beethoven made a very minor contribution in his teen years. The world had to wait many years for Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms to continue this genre.
The string trio, a unique art form that grew out of the Baroque trio sonata (by dropping the harpsichord) was one of the most popular genres with audiences in the middle of the 18th century. Its somewhat “lighter” sound ideally suited entertainment purposes and early music written for the string trio were divertimentos. The string trio was initially often scored for two violins and cello, but later for violin, viola and cello. In his early period (until about 1765) Haydn wrote more than thirty works for string trio, with one exception all in the instrumentation with two violins. Boccherini wrote his first string trios in 1761, for the same combination, but later also write for the combination with viola, and his output includes about the same number of string trios as Haydn's. Later composers (Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert) elevated the art form from a purely entertainment purpose to stand along with the string quartet as towering achievements of human creativity.
Born into a musical family of significant statute in the world of music, Jean Françaix started his musical education at an early age. Exhibiting significant musical gift, he studied privately with the legendary composition teacher Nadia Boulanger, who supported and championed his compositions.
Jean Françaix is regarded as a French neoclassicist. Neoclassicism in music was a 20th century trend in which composers sought to return to aesthetic principles associated with "classicism", namely order, balance, clarity, economy, and emotional restraint. As such, neoclassicism was a reaction against the unrestrained emotionalism and perceived formlessness of late Romanticism, as well as a "call to order" after the experimental ferment of the first two decades of the 20th century, namely the twelve-tone serialism of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. The neoclassical impulse found its expression in such features as the use of pared-down performing forces, an emphasis on rhythm and on contrapuntal texture, a strong adherence to classical form (symphony, quartet, trio, sonata), an updated or expanded harmony (but still tonal), and a concentration on absolute music as opposed to Romantic program music.
The 21-year-old Françaix composed this String Trio, one of the earliest of his several dozen published chamber music compositions, in 1933. Characterized by its humor, harmonic purity and rhythmic invention, the work draws you in from its first notes. In the Allegretto vivo (1), a sweet principal theme emerges and is shared, one after the other, by all three instruments. The carefree Scherzo (2) is a waltz gone delightfully awry. The Andante (3) movement’s arioso character provides repose before the frolicking dance of the final Rondo (4). From the beginning Françaix ignored the distractions of serialism or any kind of experimentation in favor of more conventional composition style. He laced his works with imaginative harmonic explorations and complex rhythms, colorful orchestration and a barely suppressed sense of humor. Françaix never lost sight of his main purpose as a composer. “My music,” he would say, “should be like Nature: sometimes merry, sometimes serious and never boring.”
We can get some idea of the distance Strauss travelled in his career from the Piano Quartet, composed sixty years before Metamorphosen. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Quartet is by some other composer, maybe confused for Brahms, whose passionate follower Strauss was in 1885. Some considered Strauss a better Brahmsian than Brahms himself. He completed the Quartet in Munich on New Year’s Day 1885, having worked on it the previous year during his visit to Berlin. The first performance was in Weimar on December 8th, 1885 by members of the Halír Quartet with Strauss playing the piano part. The piano quartet was never a broadly popular musical medium but the few compositions that were written for this instrumentation are truly towering works (two by Mozart and the three masterpieces by Brahms come to mind). Still, when Strauss completed his quartet, the work won the prize given by the Berlin Tonkünstler Verein for a piano quartet (believe it or not, but there were twenty-four other entries).
It is a work on a big scale, lasting some forty minutes, structurally very coherent, the First movement in particular showing a dramatic grasp of symphonic tension. Mature Strauss of course it is not, but it is impossible not to admire, even at times to love, its audacities. One should recognize the real Strauss in the broad sweep of the second subject of the first movement and in the Till-like way in which he switches moods during this Allegro. In the skittish Scherzo of the Second movement, we can hear pre-echoes of the Burleske for piano and orchestra, composed in 1886, another work for which Brahms was the inspiration but in which the real Strauss we know makes several guest appearances. The delightful trio section returns in the coda. The melodies of the slow, Third movement are teeming in their emotional richness, perhaps a bit sentimental, but they do not overstay their welcome. The Finale is more Schumann than Brahms, but here too the keen ear will detect the foreshadowing of the mature Strauss in the background.
Founded in 2008, the Israeli Chamber Project brings together some of today’s most distinguished musicians for chamber music concerts and educational and outreach programs both in Israel and abroad. A dynamic ensemble comprising strings, winds, harp, and piano, the Israeli Chamber Project was named the winner of the 2011 Israeli Ministry of Culture Outstanding Ensemble Award in recognition of its passionate musicianship, creative programming, and commitment to educational outreach.
Based both in Israel and in New York, the ensemble was created as a means for its members to give something back to the community where they began their musical education and to showcase Israeli culture, through its music and musicians to concert goers overseas. Among its members are prize-winners at the Tchaikovsky International Competition in Russia, the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the Gaspar Cassado Cello Competition.
The Israeli Chamber Project’s tours have garnered rave reviews (“These players have to be heard to be believed.” –American Record Guide; “A band of world-class soloists…in which egos dissolve and players think, breathe and play as one.” -Time Out New York) and established the ensemble as a major artistic force on both sides of the Atlantic. These tours include appearances on some of the premier chamber music series, whether Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or New York, as well as in remote towns where access to live chamber music is extremely rare. Guest artists on recent ICP tours have included the Guarneri String Quartet’s Michael Tree and Peter Wiley, the Cleveland Orchestra’s Principal Flutist, Joshua Smith as well as international soloists Antje Weithaas and Liza Ferschtman.
A strong advocate for music education, the ICP has partnered with several conservatories and educational institutions in order to offer lessons and masterclasses to students of all cultural and economic backgrounds, many of whom have little or no opportunity to work with internationally recognized musicians.
An important part of the Israeli Chamber Project’s mission is to support emerging Israeli composers by commissioning works specifically for the ensemble. Composers commissioned so far have included Matan Porat, Jonathan Keren, Gilad Cohen, Yohanan Chendler, Amit Gilutz, Zohar Sharon, as well as American composer Lowell Liebermann.
In North America, the Israeli Chamber Project has appeared at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Morgan Library & Museum, Town Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Bargemusic, and at Symphony Space in New York City, the Morrison Artists Series in San Francisco, Carmel Music Society, The Clark Memorial Library at UCLA, and Ottawa’s Chamberfest, among others, and has been featured on NPR’s Performance Today and WQXR radio’s Young Artist Showcase. The ensemble’s debut CD, Opus 1, was released in 2012 to great critical acclaim. Writing for American Record Guide, Gil French noted “These players have to be heard to be believed”, and “These musicians…make music both as soloists and as an ensemble with the technical perfection of a Heifetz and the musicality of the most mature players.”
Highlights of the 2016-17 season include the ensemble's first appearances in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, a new residency at New York's Baruch College, and the world premieres of two clarinet quintets by noted Israeli composers Menachem Wiesenberg and Yoav Talmi.
Violinist Carmit Zori is the recipient of a Leventritt Foundation Award, a Pro Musicis International Award, and the top prize in the Walter W. Naumburg International Violin Competition. She has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among many others, and has given solo recitals at Lincoln Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., the Tel Aviv Museum and the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts.
Her performances have taken her throughout Latin America and Europe, as well as Israel, Japan, Taiwan and Australia, where she premiered the Violin Concerto by Marc Neikrug. In addition to her appearances with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Ms. Zori has been a guest at chamber music festivals and concert series around the world, including the Chamber Music at the Y series in New York City, Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music festival, the Bard Music festival, Chamber Music Northwest, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Bach Dancing and Dynamite chamber music festival in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont.
After hearing the fifteen-year-old Ms. Zori, Isaac Stern arranged for her to come to the United States from her native Israel to study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where her teachers included Ivan Galamian, Jaime Laredo and Arnold Steinhardt.
Ms. Zori, who for ten years was an artistic director at Bargemusic, founded the Brooklyn Chamber Music Society in 2002. She has recorded on the Arabesque, Koch International, and Elektra-Nonesuch labels. She is professor of violin at Rutgers University and at SUNY Purchase, where she also serves on the chamber music faculty.
Violist Paul Neubauer's exceptional musicality and effortless playing led the New York Times to call him “a master musician”. This season he will record the Aaron Kernis Viola Concerto with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in the United Kingdom, a work he premiered with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony and Idyllwild Arts Orchestra in 2014. He will also premiere a new work for solo viola by Joan Tower at Alice Tully Hall, the fourth work Ms. Tower has composed for him. This will be part of a program devoted to works showcasing Mr. Neubauer at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. A solo album of music recorded at Music@Menlo will also be released this season.
Appointed principal violist of the New York Philharmonic at age 21, he has appeared as soloist with over 100 orchestras including the New York, Los Angeles, and Helsinki philharmonics; National, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, and Bournemouth symphonies; and Santa Cecilia, English Chamber, and Beethovenhalle orchestras. He has premiered viola concertos by Bartók (revised version of Viola Concerto), Friedman, Glière, Jacob, Kernis, Lazarof, Müller-Siemens, Ott, Penderecki, Picker, Suter, and Tower and has been featured on CBS's Sunday Morning, A Prairie Home Companion, and in Strad, Strings, and People magazines.
A two-time Grammy nominee, he has recorded on numerous record labels including Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Red Seal and Sony Classical. Mr. Neubauer performs in a trio with soprano Susanna Phillips and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott and is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.
One of today's prominent virtuosos, cellist Hillel Zori distinguished himself as the gold medal winner of the 1986 Maria Canals International Competition, and by winning top prizes at the Whitaker Competition, the Premio–Stradivari in Italy, the Geneva CIEM, the Dutilleux Prize at the Rostropovich Competition and the Jackson Award at Tanglewood.
Since his debut with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, Zori has been featured as a soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony, the Düsseldorf Symphony, the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Bremen Kammerphilharmonie, among others. He has toured the globe extensively appearing at festivals such as the Marlboro, Dartington, Berlin, and Israel festivals, as well as at major venues such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw chamber hall, Salle Gaveau-Paris, the Moscow Music Dome, Wigmore Hall, Zankell Hall at Carnegie Hall and the UN Assembly Hall in New York, performing Bruch's Kol Nidrei with Zubin Mehta for the 2009 International Holocaust Memorial Day.
A winner of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation annual awards, Hillel completed his studies with Prof. Uzi Wiesel at the Tel Aviv Rubin Academy and continued at the New England Conservatory with Bernard Greenhouse.
A sought after pedagogue, he has been on the faculty of Keshet Eilon Summer Seminar, the faculty of the Jerusalem Music Center, and a jury member for the Isang Yun International Competition in S. Korea. He is a professor at the Tel Aviv University – Buchmann–Mehta School of Music, serving as head of strings.
Pianist Assaff Weisman’s performances have taken him to some of the major venues in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. These include appearances at the Rudolfinum in Prague, Beethovenhalle in Bonn, Philips Hall in The Hague, and Lincoln Center in New York. As first prize winner in the 2006 Iowa International Piano Competition, he has appeared as soloist with the Sioux City Symphony, the American Chamber Orchestra, the Connecticut Valley Chamber Orchestra and the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of Peru. His radio credits include WQXR’s “Young Artist Showcase” and “The Voice of Music” in Israel, as well as multiple appearances on WGBH radio in Boston, where he has recorded repertoire ranging from Bach to André Previn.
His 2002 release of an all-Schubert recording for Yamaha’s “NYC Rising Star” series quickly became one of its best sellers. An avid chamber musician, Mr. Weisman has collaborated with Isidore Cohen, Peter Wiley, and Michael Tree, among others, and has taken part in the Aspen Music Festival, Campos do Jordão (Brazil), Lima Chamber Music Festival (Peru), The Music Festival of the Hamptons, and Verbier (Switzerland). He is a founding member, and the Executive Director of the award-winning Israeli Chamber Project, with which he has toured since 2008.
Mr. Weisman is a graduate of The Juilliard School, where he received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees as a student of Herbert Stessin, and where he now is a member of the Evening Division piano faculty. Prior to his studies in New York, he studied with Professor Victor Derevianko in Israel where he was a winner of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation Scholarships. Mr. Weisman is a Yamaha Artist.