Earlier this month, the Israel Camerata Jerusalem’s second concert of its 2019-2020 InstruVocal Series featured one of the most innovative programs of the year, entitled Between France and Spain. The orchestra, under the baton of conductor Avner Biron, performed works by Spanish and French composers for the harp and ensemble - three of which were accompanied by sand paintings created in full view of the audience and projected for all to see.
The unique and difficult art of sand painting has been mastered by Israeli artist Ilana Yahav, but it is rarely combined with a classical music concert. So her talent on display to the strains of lyrical music met with an enthusiastic reception by the audience.
Yahav first accompanied Pavane, op. 50, by 19th century French composer Gabriel Fauré, played in a completely instrumental version. This was an inspired choice of works, as the ebbs and flows of the stately composition lend themselves well to the fluidity of the sweeping motions of sand painting.
The evening’s second piece was Concierto de Aranjuez by 20th-century Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. Originally scored as a concerto for guitar and orchestra, it was an additional rare treat to hear it played by harp and orchestra. Interestingly, the composer himself had also written an arrangement for harp and orchestra, and it is this work that was performed by Sivan Magen.
Magen, an Israeli who is the Principal Harpist of the Finnish Radio Symphony, is a multi-award winning artist, and his brilliance was evident during this captivating performance of the bewitching concerto. Ms. Yahav’s painting added to the enjoyment of this piece as well, culminating in her rendition of the princess and palace of Aranjuez.
Magen continued his mastery playing the Introduction and Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and strings, by 20th-century French composer Maurice Ravel. Yahav went back to work as well, concluding her work with an inspirational dove of peace.
The concert concluded with the orchestral suite Variaciones Concertantes by 20th-century Spanish composer Alberto Ginastera. It turns out that Ginastera also wrote a harp concerto, and it was a pity that we did not get to hear Magen play this piece instead. Nor have the pleasure of Yahav putting us under her spell one last time.
While there were no voices in this concert, they were really not missed. The first concert in the current InstruVocal series featured Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Lutheran Mass, performed by the outstanding visiting Jauna Muzika Choir from Lithuania; the next one in the series, scheduled for January, once again places a spotlight on an instrument not often in the limelight: The Viola Takes Center Stage.