Chamberworks by Paul Ben-Haim reviewed on FonoForum
GISELHER SCHUBERT, FONOFORUM
Paul Ben-Haim, who was born Paul Frankenburger in Munich in 1897, emigrated to Israel in 1933 and died in Tel Aviv in 1984, was one of Israel’s most prolific and influential composers and composition teachers. Trained at Munich's Academy of Music, his musical beginnings belong to a late Romantic category of Brahmsian provenance.
The noteworthy piano quartet op. 4 (1921) harks back to these beginnings; following a performance in 1932, it was only heard again in 2012 thanks to the ARC Ensemble's absolutely immaculate recording. Ben-Haim's methodical, consistent and original expansion of Brahms' idiom, and his simultaneous attempt to leave it behind by integrating as many different types of music as possible into the context of traditional forms, is astonishing. In this way, the music of this piano quartet seems to develop while also leaving an imaginary musical centre, but without shattering or breaking up into disconnected parts. Admittedly, the piece is held together by the intense musical conviction of Canada's ARC ensemble, which mainly plays music by suppressed or politically persecuted composers. Their exemplary commitment is all the more convincing given that the musicians prove to be excellent and stylistically confident soloists who maintain a balance between the accuracy that chamber music requires and the more expansive momentum of a concert.
Also recorded is Ben-Haim's “Improvisation and Dance” op. 30, composed for Zino Francescatti, who also popularized this delightful work. With music such as this, composed by Ben-Haim in Israel, his creative ideas rise to a new level. Hebrew music is among the musical styles he now takes up, which is unobtrusively amalgamated into his compositions.
Ben-Haim’s clarinet quintet op. 31a, is certainly one of his major works; it still recalls Brahms, but its tone is now completely Hebraic, investing the music with a very special atmosphere of melancholy and sad restraint, which in this exquisite recording by the ARC Ensemble – clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas deserves special praise – appears like a cloudy November day. The work deserves to be included in the general repertoire and provides a welcome alternative to the clarinet quintets of Mozart and Brahms.
> Read the Full Article
Footage from ARC Ensemble's debut at the Lincoln Center Festival this past July
> More Videos
Royal Conservatory on a mission to recover suppressed works
The Globe and Mail
They were dismissed from their jobs, forced into exile, often imprisoned and killed. They are the composers who suffered and died under Hitler and Stalin, and the Royal Conservatory of Music plans to establish an in-house institute to help retrieve their suppressed works.
“It’s striking to me how much of this music is simply unknown and unexplored,” says Simon Wynberg, artistic director of the RCM’s ARC Ensemble, which over the past decade has championed works by suppressed composers through concert tours and recordings, two of which were nominated for Grammy awards.
> Read the Full Article
A Green and Pleasant Land
As the ARC Ensemble moves into its 10th anniversary season, we have begun to look back at our archives. Among our past series are two concerts of English music composed between the wars which we presented under the title "A Green and Pleasant Land." These performances, which included poetry of the period read by R.H. Thompson, were broadcast by CBC Radio 2, and later packaged for NPR affiliates with introductions by the ARC Ensemble's Artistic Director, SImon Wynberg.
> Listen Here
> More News
September 26, 3pm
Free Culture Days Performance
> More Information
> More Concerts