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Eastern melisma

MALCOLM MILLER hears the Tel-Aviv Trio
at London's Wallace Collection


It was apt for the Tel-Aviv Trio, a young, prize-winning ensemble rapidly carving out an international career, to dedicate their Wallace Collection concert on 25 November 2001 to the memory of Isaac Stern. They were the last young artists to be mentored by the great violinist at the Jerusalem Music Centre, where they were formed in 1998. What is more, Isaac Stern, renowned for his work with young musicians, avidly supported the Music at the Wallace Collection series, devised by his agent and friend Hanna Horovitz, as a welcome platform for new talent.

The concert formed part of the month-long Jewish Chronicle Festival of Jewish Arts and Culture and the challenging yet rewarding programme began with the Variations on a Hebrew Melody by Paul Ben-Haim, Israel's best known composer. It is an atmospheric, poetic work exemplifying his 'Mediterranean' style, a synthesis of eastern melisma and folk rhythms with the rich harmony and forms of European impressionism. The trio brought elusive tension to the sometimes brooding slow introduction before the bright melody is introduced. Pianist Jonathan Aner's virtuoso variation followed with delicate tracery, and then the evocative violin and cello dialogues projected sonorously by Matan and Ira Givol, each variation in turn dramatic, syncopated and lyrical. All three propelled the fifth variation with panache leading to a meditative final variation that rounds off Ben-Haim's artful response to the folk theme. Warmly received by the capacity audience, it affirmed that more Israeli works deserve exposure to British concert audiences.

An ideal work with which to couple it was Chausson's G minor Trio, a seldom played piece of ravishing beauty and power. Here the Tel-Aviv Trio's dovetailing, control of dramatic pauses and texture kept the fluid structure alive with intensity. Matan Givol's lyrical violin tone was beguiling in the slow movement, whilst the ensemble captured the mood contrasts in the airy Scherzo and swirling finale where the first movement's passion is retrieved. Isaac Stern would have enjoyed the promise shown here by these three young artists; it was a recital that attested to superb talent, teamwork and, with room for maturing, a terrific future for the trio ahead.

Copyright © 10 December 2001 Malcolm Miller, London, UK







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