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Reviews

Golbes – 26.5.10
Classic Review / Omer Shomroni – Modern Could Also Be Beautiful


The HSO, Conductor: Noam Sheriff, Rappaport Hall, Haifa, 23.5. A moving concert by Ella Milech-Sheriff and a beautiful performance of "Per Gint"
The HSO is currently presenting an attractive program under the conduction of Noam Sheriff, its musical director. If to judge by the Sunday concert, it was an evening easily enjoyed, thanks to a wise choice of musical pieces and a good level of performance.
The main revelation of this concert is the piano concerto by Ella Milech-Sheriff, Noam Sheriff's spouse and a gifted composer by her own right. The music composed by Milech-Sheriff is to my liking, it is exactly what the classical music world needs today. It is a communicative music, almost completely tonal and humane. It has been the first time in many years that I have heard a contemporary piece that I have actually enjoyed on the emotional level.
The concerto, delivered wholeheartedly by pianist Michal Tal as a soloist, is made up of three chapters. The first and last are relatively rhythmical, and the second chapter is characteristically an ode. This chapter, titled "In Memoriam" is without a doubt the peak of the concerto, emotionally speaking. It is influenced to a great extent by Mahler, especially by the heart wrenching adagio in the ninth symphony in which Mahler departs from the world. Milech-Sheriff explains in the accompanying brochure that she wrote this chapter as a prayer in memory of her mother, and its character is moving accordingly. It is very good music.
The other two chapters – the first and the third – are also enjoyable, but are looser in terms of theme and emotion. They also show influence of past composers – a bit of Shostakovich, a bit of Prokofiev, a bit of Rawel, a bit of Pollnak. It is important to note that this is a mere influence: Milech-Sheriff's music is completely original. Why is this concerto so joyous? Because it proves that communication with the audience, and composing beautiful music, are not necessarily wrong. It may be that in some academic circles this piece will be shrugged off as being too light, obsequious or simple. For me – these are all nonsense. The world of classical music needs such compositions as water to a tree, because they bring the non-professional audience back to the world of classical music, a hundred years after it has been systematically pushed away from it.
The second joyful piece in the concert was the music to "Per Ghint" by Edward Grig, which was performed after the recess. Grig wrote here a delightful hit parade, conducted by Noam Sheriff with skill and without score. The orchestra was joined by Omer Frenkel as story teller and reciter. He presented a cohesive Hebrew and a pleasant performance and the intergration between him and the orchestra was good. With regards to the performance, the most convincing parts were the dramatic ones: "Ingrid's Lament", which provided the most moving moment in the piece, and the final song by Solvig.
The main problem for the HSO, if to judge by this concert alone, is a certain fatigue that is felt in the orchestral sound. While the musicians are indeed professional and qualitative, and Sheriff's conduction is precise, the sound which passes to the audience suffers from a lack of vibrancy and energy. This problem was especially evident with the piece that opened the concert, Mozart's symphony no. 33. It is a piece which is the hallmark of Viennese grace, and a solid performance demands lightness and naugtyness from the orchestra. These two traits were missing in Haifa: the performace was clean and all sounds were in place, but it sounded a bit sleepy and tired relative to what was expected. For a convincing Mozart to be performed you need sharp character that is alert and fluid, and this is true for many moments for the rest of the pieces performed.
In summary: I recommend this concert because of the beautiful music of "Per Gint" and Ella Milech-Sheriff's concerto, which proves that contemporary composers can also write beautiful music. Who would have believed.
The concert will be perfomed agagin tomorrow, Wednesday, 25.6, at the Northern Theatre at Kiryat Haim.

Celebrating in Sounds
Liran Gurkevich, Ynet

(12/9/2010 )

 

CONCERT REVIEW: Haifa Symphony Orchestra
Uri Eppstein from the Jerusalem Post

(12/4/2010 )

 

No more Sadness in the world
Noam Ben Ze´ev

Ha'aretz(20/04/2007)

Yesterday at the Concert / There is no sadness in the world
The HSO and the Polyphonic Choir from Ankara, Turkey, present: The Oratorio "The Creation of the World", by Hyden; Soloists: Margarita Illia – Soprano, Xavier Moreno – Tenor, Christian Immler – Bass; Conductor: Noam Sheriff; Center for the Performing Arts, Tel Aviv
From where did Noam Sheriff have the courage to begin "The Creation of the World" with such a Pianissimo – and to hold on to it more and more, both with the orchestra and the soloists and the choir? It is hard to tell. However, his nerves did not betray him, and Hayden's famous chaos silenced the hall to a complete silence, to the lack of sound replicating the time before creation, with a music so subtle that its presence was physically felt.
Two hours of music passed under Sheriff's precise conduction, and it is impressive to note how he has taken the HSO and put it on its feet and how he so wisely succeeded throughout the evening to bring it and the choir to the rhythmic and harmonic path, every time they strayed of it. Of course it is impossible not to pay the ego tax and even during the final thundering applause Sheriff did not give up on the opportunity to sound his own voice as speaker in first person. But that is trifles in comparison to the grandiose piece he just now conducted.
On second thought, "grandiose" – despite the length and volume of the piece – is not the proper word to describe "The Creation of the World", with its purity, innocence and distilled musical simplicity. It is no accident that Hayden, whose every musical composition seems to have been written prior to the primal sin, chose to compose this Oratorio, which actually does tell of the act of creation up to that sin. Whoever listened to his composition knows the flavor of Paradise: Hayden in his old age portrays it with utter paganism, worshiping the beauty of nature and animals and the simplicity of the myths surrounding them. Unlike the book of Genesis, he creates a love story between Adam and Eve - a heavenly couple, who love and respect one another within the boundaries of divine bliss, which is clear and lacks shadow. Thus ends the musical piece, with a utopia so befitting its composer.
Noam Ben Zeev

 

 

Ha'aretz – 30.10.09
Last Night at the Concert – Noam Ben Zeev
Daring and Romantic Beauty
The mission taken on by Noam Sheriff was not a simple one: to present to the audience of the HSO, an audience who has been sleepy throughout the concert, reluctant to applaude and even has been known to get up and leave in mid chapter – to present to such an audience a contemporary piece that is daring, in the form of Italian Nicolla Sonn's "Crazy Flight". Coaccidentaly, Nicolla was present in the audience and the concert was the opening mark for the season.
With heart winining rhetoric Sheriff presented the issue to his audience: "we watch contemporary theatre," he said, "and with contemporary theatre, contemporary painters and contemporary authors – so why not listen to contemporary music?" It worked. There was a strained silence in the hall and the piece, with its varying sound patterns and reluctance to provide immediate satisfactions in the form of melodies or traditional harmonies, filled the hall of silent listeners. The applause, as noted, were feeble – but such were the applause for Schuman's "Spring" symphony, a symphony which brings joy to all who listen to it, and over which Sheriff conducted with confidence and originality, reveals (as much is as acoustically possible( its fine subtleties, its humor and slyness and its romantic emotion. The finale, "The Emperor" with Roman Rabinowich playing correctly, proved this concerto needs two or three more rehearsals to be presented with precision and accuracy.
The HSO performing its season debut. Conductor: Noam Sheriff. Soloist: Roman Rabinowich, pianist. From the works of Nicolla Sonny, Schuman and Beethoven. Haifa Auditorium

City Mouse – 26.5.2006
Another Title for Liverpool / Ido Solomon
The HSO challenged itself with the songs of the Beatles, with the participation of Irmi Kaplan and the Revolvers. The concert hall was packed, the performances precise, the musical performance was excellent and the show was enticing. Such a performance did the Beatles justice.
The final line of the song which closes the Beatles' masterpiece album – Abbey Road – goes as follows: "and in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you make." This line, which summarized so concisely the amazing career of the four Beatles from Liverpool, who gave and received love, fits unsurprisingly to summarize the tribute concert organized by young conductor Gil Rave, which was filled with love, and as promised, received a lot of love in return.
For a whole month, along the wall of the auditorium at the Carmel center, one could see a huge banner which invited the passersby to a meeting between the Beatles and the HSO. This was enough for Beatle lovers of all generations to fill this vast hall to the rafters and to force the organizers to open two more seating galleries on the stage. Irmi Kaplan and The Revolvers band, who came to fill the massive shows left by John, Paul, George and Ringo, could not expect a warmer welcome. With the first sounds of "Come Together" it was evident they would pull it off; that is recreating the magic, and over a thousand people were there to help them make it happen.
Rave wished to recreate the songs as they were originally performed in the album, the sounds and the subtleties of the performance, and he was as close as could be to fulfilling that wish. The moving performances corresponded almost completely to the songs of the album. The orchestra was downsized accordingly and the rock section was strengthened significantly, even by the hands of the Maestro himself who every now and then exchanged his baton with a guitar. Kaplan, who for most part took on the role of Lennon, was a good choice for the matter. Not only because of his native English tongue which did not hinder the performances with a foreign accent but also because of the fire he brought with him on stage. He is a tremendous performer who also knows how to coexist with a large ensemble. The rock band at his side is also comprised by talented and versatile musicians and together with the HSO they proved the power of a cohesive group.
This night offers something for everyone, young and old alike, Beatles lovers and even for those who have never heard of them before. This is a sort of musical summary for a band which has developed and upgraded itself throughout its existence and in this album presented us with a little bit of everything. Rock songs, such as the one that opens the album, alongside sticky pop songs such as "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and "Octopus Garden" by Ringo Starr, nostalgic romance and trippin' psychedelic music and a lot of good old fashioned rock n' roll. The ensemble on stage only needed to dedicate themselves, as they did, and let history do the rest.
One of the highlights of the evening was no doubt the precise performance of "Because" and the collaboration between the orchestra and the band, performing "Golden Slumber." For the encore, the performers added some of their favorites outside the album such as "Elinore Rigbi", bgut these are just several examples from a truly exceptional evening which brought those 70's classic hits to the 21st century, in the most elegant manner.
When the Beatles and the HSO meet at Abbey Road. Auditorium, Saturday, 20.5.

Success for the Big Band in Germany
Yoram Mark Reich
Yediot Haifa 16.10.2009

The municipal Big Band Orchestra was invited to perform at the European jazz festival in Germany. Motti Eines, the CEO of the HSO and the Big Band, sees this as a great honor for the city and the orchestra
The Haifa Big Band has been successful at the international jazz festival – Enjoy Jazz – which opened at Mannheim, Germany. The month long festival hosted the best jazz musicians from around the world. This is the first time ever that an Israeli band is invited to the festival, which attracts leading jazz artists from around Europe and which has been held for the past 11 years with great success. Amongst the honorary guests who attended the festival were the Mayor of Haifa, Yonah Yahav, the Mayor of Mannheim Dr. Petr Kurtz and mayors of Haifa's twin cities from across Germany.
Motti Eines, the CEO for the HSO, says that the concert hall was fully booked and that the audience came from all over Europe. "The event opened with a screening of a 10 minute film about Haifa. The Haifa Big Band Orchestra sees itself as an ambassador of Haifa in the world and it was important for us to introduce the uniqueness of our city to the audience."
Following opening words and greetings by Haifa Mayor, Yonah Yahav; Mannheim Mayor Dr. Petr Kurtz; The director of the festival, Kurn Reiner and the HSO CEO, Motti Eines, the concert commenced with great exceitement.
For the first part of the concert, the Big Band performed with solo artists from Germany and for the second part a German Big Band Orchestra performed accompanied by solo artists from the Haifa big Band orchestra. The concert ended with a joint performance by both Big Band orchestras under the direction of the Haifa Big Band conductor, Jeff Howard.
Motti Eines, how did it come to pass that the Orchestra was invited to perform at the prestigious festival?
"Four months ago , the Mayor of Mannheim, Dr. Petr Kurtz arrived at Haifa as the honorary guest of Yonah Yahav. He arrived at Haifa with senior officials from the Mannheim municipality, a vast delegation numbering over 20 members. During the visit, Yahav told the Germans, with pride, about the Haifa Big Band and they were very interested and asked to hear them play."
Eines says that once they heard the Orchestra play, the collaboration was established very quickly and efficiently: "while they were still in Israel, I met with them to check the option that the Big Band would perform in Germany and to my surprise, this pleasant conversation turned into a wonderful cooperation by which the Big Band was invited to perform at the prestigious festival in Mannheim."
Despite the excitement, Eines says he encountered difficulties financing the tour and so he turned to the aid of the Haifa Foundation. "I met with Kobi Brosh and asked how they could help us get to Germany. Kobi decided to help and for this matter we were given patronage of the Foundation, which allowed us to participate in the festival," says Motti.
Eines adds: "we were very excited to receive the formal invitation to appear at Mannheim. We have only been performing for a year and we have already been invited to perform at the Israeli Festival and at the Festival in Germany. These are exciting precedencies. We will share the same stage with the German Big Band, as if we were one orchestra. It is a professional high and we hope that this performance will open further doors for us in the future. It is important for us to represent Haifa around the world."
Eines says that following the invitation to play in Germany, other interested parties from around the world have shown interest in the Big Band, and an approach from the Italian attaché to Israel has been made, to check possible future collaborations.
performance in Mannheim, alongside the leading German orchestra."
The Big Band, which has recently performed at the Israeli Festival and received fervent responses, grew out of the HSO and is made up of 18 members who play wind and rhythm instruments. Most of the musicians for the Big Band are also members of the HSO and together they join with Israel's leading jazz artists to perform wonderful and quality jazz music from the time of the Big Bands to today's modern jazz, with every performance lined with renowned guests from Israel and abroad.

 

Haifa Musicians Conquer Germany
Haifa and the North News 14.10.2009

The Haifa Big Band Orchestra performed at the European Jazz Festival in Germany and received enthusiastic responses
The Haifa Big Band Orchestra performed this week at the international jazz festival – Enjoy Jazz – which debuted in Mannheim, Germany. The festival is a month long and sees the participation of the best the jazz world has to offer from around the world. This is the first time that an Israeli band was invited to participate at the prestigious festival, held this year for the 11th time, with great success. Amongst the honorary guests were the Mayor of Haifa, Yonah Yahav; The Mayor of Mannheim, Dr. Petr Kurtz and Mayors from Haifa's twin cities.
Motti Eines, the CEO for the HSO, says that the concert hall was fully booked and that the audience came from all over Europe. "The event opened with a screening of a 10 minute film about Haifa. The Haifa Big Band Orchestra sees itself as an ambassador of Haifa in the world and it was important for us to introduce the uniqueness of our city to the audience."
Following opening words and greetings by Haifa Mayor, Yonah Yahav; Mannheim Mayor Dr. Petr Kurtz; The director of the festival, Kurn Reiner and the HSO CEO, Motti Eines, the concert commenced with great exceitement.
For the first part of the concert, the Big Band performed with solo artists from Germany and for the second part a German Big Band Orchestra performed accompanied by solo artists from the Haifa big Band orchestra. The concert ended with a joint performance by both Big Band orchestras under the direction of the Haifa Big Band conductor, Jeff Howard.
Eines adds: "We were very excited to receive such formal invitation to appear in Mannheim and to perform before such a loving audience from around the world. This is an incredible professional record and we hope that this performance will open additional doors for us in the future."

Sound and Beyond
Ha'Aretz 14.3.2006

Noam Sheriff conducts the HSO with his composition "Sacrifice" and with pieces by Bloch and Shostakovich. Soloist: Cellist Hillel Tsari. First violin: Nelly Grimberg. Haifa Auditorium
The program for this concert is without a doubt one of the most interesting to be performed on the symphonic stages in Israel, thanks to symphony no.5 by Shostakovich, whose circumstances for being composed are special, and thanks to Sheriff's "Sacrifice", composed in memoriam of Yitzhak Rabin, which tries to sketch, in symbols, the lines of his character's development. Alongside them, Ernest Bloch's "Solomon" was performed, which carries its Judaism with pride.
Noam Sheriff composed "Sacrifice" as a Pascale, that is variations over a bass melody which does not change. Sheriff was able to achieve a heartwarming expression of pain using measured and restrained means. The quiet note, throughout most of the piece, broadcasts pain but without reaching pathos and tears. This backdrop has given the pronounced Jewish motif on the trombone, adjascent to the drums, a strength and effectiveness.
"Solomon" by Bloch is not my personal favorite, but as a means of displaying the polished artistic personality of Hillel Tzari, it was well suited. Even in a problematic music hall in Haifa, Tzari was able to produce a pleasant sound.
The acceptable title for Shostakovich's symphony no. 5 is "An Artists Response to Justified Criticism." It is said that this refers to the artist's lashing he received by Stalin's cultural officials following the daring opera "Lady Macbeth" in 1936. Do we actually hear in the heroism of symphony no. 5, an element of irony and hidden protest? And is this heroism actually "hollow" as one writer described? One could say all this, but I fell these are all words without basis. With regards to the performance: throughout the concert Noam Sheriff brought forth a unified performance from his string section and well pronounced phrases from his wind section as soloists. It must be said that the level of performance of Shostakovich by the HSO, should be a matter of pride to them. The peak of the evening was achieved at the third chapter which was led with excellent interpretation.
Hagai Hitron

Yesterday / Concert
Motzart Above All
Ha'Aretz 17.9.2006

The opening of the HSO concert season. Conductor: Noam Sheriff; Solo artist: pianist Salim Aboud Ashkar. Haifa Auditorium.
Following the national anthem (performed at a too brisk a pace) and two short speeches – one by the CEO of the HSO, harpist Efrat Lavri-Zaklad, and by the CEO of the Ministry of Education Eitan Broshi (the missile crisis period was mentioned, what else, and also praises for the Mayor's – Yonah Yahav – command of the situation) – this successful concert was underway.
The opening – Agmont by Beethoven – was led by Sheriff with a brisk and quite stern sound, which emphasized the heroic message. Later the Orchestra shrunk in size to a chamber music orchestra more befitting a Mozart concert, and at the piano sat 30 years old, Nazareth born, Salim Aboud Ashkar, who has had previous experience on major stages in the world. I sat enchanted as I listened to him play the bit worn out concerto no. 21. Under Ashkar's fingers and with the support of Sheriff, an impression was soon made that the soloist and the orchestra are enjoying themselves and their enjoyment was projected well.
The applause encouraged the performance of a "musical bite" and to my surprise Aboud Ashkar chose a piece which is not a typical encore; not an entertaining virtuoso flashy spectacle but rather a confrontation of a Mozart piece which from a purely musical stand point, not a technical one, is more challenging then the concerto. It was a slow chapter in fa minor from a well know sonnet. Aboud Ashkar performed the piece with a well thought of attitude, with a confident sound but not a sweet one, but in my opinion he managed to solve only a small portion of the problems associated with playing these phrases, which are simple only on the surface.
For the second part of the concerto the orchestra performed the dramatic and picturesque piece "So Said Zarathustra" by Richard Strauss. Unfortunately, I could only listen to a small portion of it. The piece sets a challenge for any orchestra. From the portion I heard it was evident that much work was done in preparation and that the rich texture that is Strauss is a most suitable playing field for Noam Sheriff's artistic character.
Hagai Hitron

 

An Impressive Mahler Event – Hagai Hitron / Last Night at the Concert
Ha'Aretz 20.7.2011

If to judge by the magnitude of the applause at the end of the concert, the audience which filled the Haifa Auditorium last night (approx. 1,100 people), experienced a significant Mahler experience. The concert was dedicated in full to Mahler's Symphony No. 2, conducted by the Musical Director of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Noam Sheriff.
Mahler fans have been glorifying this symphony since its birth; it contains proclaimed non-musical themes, amongst which are philosophizing messages. Mahler himself has determined this as he interlaced solo singers (soprano and alto) and a choir at the end of the piece, combined with words of which some he wrote himself, such as "all that has passed will rise, return!", etc. Most specially loved and familiar is the scherzo chapter, whose tune also stars in Mahler's piece "Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt."
At the concert, the impressive symphony was realized at the trusted hands of a pronounced, veteran Mahler fan – Maestro Sheriff – and for its execution, which demands a large orchestra, many supplemental guest musicians were enlisted, in addition to the two solo singers and the choir. The CEO of the HSO, Motti Eines, answered my question by saying that at the concert there was some deliberate electronic resonance, which was a naturally required upgrade to the natural sound of the auditorium. Eines also stated that the Haifa Municipality has announced a planned future investment in a more advanced electronic resonance system.
It should also be said that the concert was characterized by what may be called – growing warmth - an advancement in the level of execution from one chapter to the next. The apex was most definitely at the end, and it was achieved with the help of the crystal clear voices of the Gary Bertini Israeli Choir (approx. 70 singers under the guidance of Ronen Borshevsky.) Today it is considered a large and quality Israeli choir, a definite and sole "rival" to the Opera choir. The two solo singers sang in a very cultural manner but at sound levels that sounded too modes for Mahler.
We shall remind our readers that this concert will be performed again tomorrow, at the Haifa Auditorium, but I have been told that there are no vacancies for this concert.
Noam Sheriff conducts the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, two solo singers Hadar Levy and Moran Abulof and the Bartini Choir, Symphony No. 2 ("The Revival"), by Mahler. Haifa Auditorium, 18.7.

 

Mahler Excites Haifa – Ora Binur / Last Night at the Theater
Ma'Ariv 21.7.2011

For his second symphony, titled "The Revival", Mahler enlisted a very large orchestra including a pipe organ, four horns, church bells, trumpets behind the stage, a large set of six percussion musicians, special instruments such as "Tamtam" (a kind of gong) and a kind of lyre known as a "Rotta" and of course the whole family of string instruments and wind instruments. The five chapters of the Symphony encase within them philosophical questions such as - what is the purpose of life? Why is there suffering? etc. The challenge of taking on this immense musical piece is tremendous and requires much effort both in depth and on the technical-performance level.
Maestro Noam Sheriff, one of the great Mahler connoisseurs, has taken it upon himself and upon his orchestra to partake in this challenge as a final note for this concert season in Haifa. In retrospect, looking through a wide lens, this was truly an impressive event where Mahler's unique spirit could be seen hovering over the concert hall. There were many segments in the hour and a half concert which were moving, such as the soft voices of the choir towards the close of the symphony, the solo flute part, and obviously the performance by the two solo singers at the end, which left us with an atmosphere of Judgment Day and acceptance of our fate.
Mahler wrote his piece for an alto; Hadar Levy, a Mezzo Soprano, sang beautifully and with emotion but without sufficient potency. In contrast, Soprano Moran Abouloff rose to a crescendo with her warm and special hued voice. Thanks to her prominent emotional expression, even if it was a small part to play, her singing was moving and significant mainly because of her musical capabilities.
In a more detailed look, mainly at the first chapter, some discrepancies were noted and nonhomogeneous parts performed by the musicians; it felt as if they needed an extra warm up. The motifs did not earn a proper continuous and concentrated expression. Maybe they were missing one more general rehearsal to unify all parts into a whole. This was especially felt in the first chapter. The second chapter, the Austrian Dance, sounded beautiful, graceful and gentle and it reached its peak at the end of the symphony.
The six percussionists were especially brilliant throughout the whole performance; they excelled and acted as an elite unit, adding a dimension to the symphony which could best be described as fascinating, powerful and full of suspense. Every now and again they split the atmosphere with great power. Alongside them stood the trumpet players; their trombones where an integral and important part in the different chapters.
Maestro Noam Sheriff conducted without looking at his notes throughout the concert, and except for some minor inaccuracies, he controlled the musical score and gave the audience a non-habitual experience, on the stage of the Haifa Auditorium. Tonight there is a second performance.
The Haifa Symphony Orchestra performs Mahler's Symphony No.2, with the Bertini Israeli Choir and solo artists Moran Abouloff: Soprano and Hadar Levy: Mezzon Soprano. Conductor: Noam Sheriff. Haifa Auditorium.

Music's Victory – Maxim Rider / Opera
Yediot A'Haronot
6.8.2012

" La bohème" performed by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, has proven once again that with all due respect to costumes and setting, an excellent musical performance is what matters.
Opera is an illusion. Despite the fact that impressive stage setting, beautiful costumes and a revolutionary directing can absolutely contribute to a theatrical experience, these are not what cause an emotional audience to empathize with the characters and shed a tear. That is the sole responsibility of the musical performance.
This simple fact has received additional proof in the season finale concert of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, performing Puccini's eternal opera "La bohème", with partial stage presentation and an almost symbolic setting.
The concert took place at the Orchestra's permanent place of residence, where most of the stage was taken up by musicians. This did not prevent director Julia Pevzner, while using minimal tools and precise directing, to turn what was left of the stage into an attic or a Parisian street.
The goal set by the performers was to tell the tragic story of young love on the backdrop of ultimate poverty – and they made it work. As always with Puccini, the orchestra is the one to convey the story, and it knows, in its wisdom, more about the protagonists than they, in their naiveté, are capable of knowing about themselves.
It was true this time as well. Under Maestro Yoel Levy's baton, the orchestra sounded at its best. Levy, a well-seasoned and restrained conductor, does not aim to break his audience's heart but rather deals the goods and faithfully supports the singers. Amongst the solo artists were Spanish Tenor Marcelo Puente playing the lead role (of "Rodolfo") and Georgian Soprano Ilona Mataradze (Mimi), owner of a clean and flexible voice, full of honest emotion which is easy to identify with. In the final scene she was very convincing. The Israeli singers did not disappoint: Sivan Rotem as jolly "Musetta" and the two baritones Gabriel Lovenheim and Assaf Levitin conformed to the highest standards.
"La bohème" by Giacomo Puccini, season finale concert by the Haifa Symphony Orchestra, Haifa Auditorium.

Puccini Played Effectively – Hagai Hitron / Last Night at the Concert
Ha'Aretz 24.7.2013

A combination of "La bohème", an orchestra (The Haifa Symphony Orchestra) which sound good, the direction of Maestro Yoel Levy and good voices, should lead to a convincing experience. It did.
Most of the action took place on a small heightened stage placed at the edge of the large stage of the Haifa Auditorium (the orchestra took up most of the space on the stage), set against pictures from a general Parisian landscape installed on the back wall of the stage. There was not pretention in organizing a grand and lavish performance but rather to transfer music and atmosphere in an elementary approach. It turned out that the visual "poverty" of the Haifa production reflected the poverty and distress of the poor bohemian group in Paris, in the opera itself.
The strongest cards played were those of the powerful voices: The Spanish Tenor Marcelo Puente in the lead role ("Rudolfo"), and other guests playing the roles of his friends (most noted: Romanian Bass Bogdan Talush as "Schaunard"). With regards to the lead female role: Georgian Soprano Ilona Mataradze ("Mimi") did not sing very powerfully or radiantly, and during silent phrases in low register she came out a bit pale at times, as if she was truly ill. With that said, her singing, when she sang her in comfort zone, brought on moments of empathy. The Israeli singers – led predictably by Sivan Rotem ("Musetta") with credible professionalism (she was called as a substitute for Sivan Goldman who was ill), and also baritones Assaf Levitin and Gabriel Lovenheim, performed their roles properly. The use of a children's choir was a bit over the top, with regards to the number of children who participated (incidentally: the concert opened with the Israeli national anthem – "Ha'Tikva").
The British musician and journalist Julian Haylock, in his book about Puccini (published in Hebrew last year, translated by Aviad Shtir) wrote about the ending of "La bohème" that at that final moment "those who give themselves to the opera with all their heart may experience one of the most significant opera experiences of all." The Haifa production of "La bohème" did not rise to that level but for several parts there was a definite hint of such possibility.
The Haifa Symphony Orchestra performs: "La bohème" by Puccini. Conductor: Yoel Levy. Director: Julia Pevzner. Singers from abroad and from Israel and choirs. Producer: Motti Eines.

From Darkness to Full Brightness
Ora Binour
Ma'Ariv 20.4.2007


"The Creation of the World" by Hyden, performed by the HSO with the Polyphonic Choir Ankara, Turkey, and solo artists. Conductor: Noam Sheriff. Center for the Performing Arts
The opening sounds from the orchestra, depicting the chaos which preceded creation, were performed under the conduction of Sheriff with sensitivity, with silence and with wondrous musicality, and thus we were informed of the craftful artistry of the Creation. Hyden has out done himself with the Oratorio and for the fulfillment of the musical, vocal and orchestral quality, it truly does demand a skilled, artistic and sensitive cast.
To our delight, all these elements were met. The greatest surprise was the clear and excellent vocals by the Ankara choir, with its first visit to Israel in full cast of 70 members. If we all thought Turkey is a weekend getaway location, we discovered last night that they also have a high musical ability. The three singers were also excellent and especially the Bass-Baritone Christian Immler, who has a very dominant role which is also emotional and a major part of the plot, and with both parts he excelled and moved us.
The soprano Margarita Ellia was also good with her warm voice which will be nurtured on stage in later days and Tenor Xavier Moreno who left a monumental impression when he announced the creation of man, in his singing. The grand gala performance for "The Creation of the World" raised the HSO to new levels and its conductor, Noam Sheriff, should be praised for the initiative and for the musical and stylish sensitivity. It was an honorable performance, worthy and dedicated, which showed us the world as it is portrayed in the eyes of one of the great classical composers. At that time there was still no evil in the world.