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Heart-rending beauty

Concertos by Elgar and Kopytman,
reviewed by MALCOLM MILLER


The heart-rending beauty of the solo viola note suspended above delicate, elusive harmonies for string orchestra lingered poignantly in the memory at the conclusion of Kaddish, a masterpiece for viola and strings by the Israeli composer Mark Kopytman (born 1929), given a stirring performance at St James's Piccadilly, London UK, on Friday 1 April 2005, presented in association with the Forum for Israeli Music of the Jewish Music Institute, SOAS. The soloist was the young Greek violist Alexandros Koustas, with the recently formed Blenheim Chamber Orchestra under the baton of their founder Daniel Cohen. The enterprising orchestra aims to introduce the wealth of Israeli and Jewish music to British audiences, and is the brainchild of twenty-one year old Daniel Cohen, an Israeli violinist currently pursuing conducting studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where most of the players are based.

Daniel Cohen
Daniel Cohen

Kaddish is an ideal choice to start their venture, as it conveys a fascinating mixture of influences from Shostakovich to cantorial chant and oriental Jewish dances, reflecting the concerns of the composer who immigrated to Israel from Russia in 1972. The performance was infused with precision, intensity and a sense of energy, as were Daniel Cohen's own versions of three Sephardic melodies by Paul Ben-Haim, Israel's best-known composer. Particularly beguiling were the cello sonorities in the exotic 'Sephardi Lullaby' that ends with a magical glow of solo violin above the orchestra. The large, enthusiastic audience also enjoyed favourites by Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, whose Grosse Fugue Op 133 offered a fiery finish to an impressive début for an adventurous orchestra and conductor one hopes to hear again very soon.

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Copyright © 16 August 2005 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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