Review of 4th Israeli and 3rd Ernest Bloch Music Competitions


Competition finals frequently attract audiences since the level of focus and concentration surpasses many regular concerts. Such was the impressively high standard of artistry coupled with highly engaging programming at the Royal College of Music on 14 July 2011, where eight young talented soloists performed as competitors in the Fourth Israeli Music Competition and Third Ernest Bloch Music Competition. Four works by Israeli composers of each generation interwove with four works by Bloch, including two versions of his most popular work, Nigun from the Baal Shem Suite.

The event was organised the enterprising cellist Sagi Hartov, who presided over a distinguished Jury comprising Professor Malcolm Troup, Chairman of the IEBS, international concert pianist Daniel Adni, violinist Paul de Keyser, composer Julian Dawes, singer Teresa Cahill and arts administrator Ken Gould, Director of the Jewish Music Festival in Holland. Compere of the evening was Cantor Jeremy Burko who introduced each participant, starting with the Israeli recorder player Inbar Solomon, who gave an atmospheric account of To a pine Tree on Mount Carmel, by Avishai Yaar, a poetic miniature for soprano recorder dating from 1999. The outer sections of the tripartite form evoked the serene desert soundscapes, with modal gestures modulated through masterly control of subtle dynamics, especially at the whispered ppp level, varied tone colours and microtonal tuning, contrasted in a spikier contemporary central interlude. Also for solo wind, the next Israeli work was Shulamit Ran’s East Wind (1987) performed by the Polish flautist Rafal Zolkos. Ran, currently Professor of Composition at Chicago University, has composed some of the most powerful syntheses of contemporary postmodern and Eastern Mediterranean styles, evidenced here in the arc-shaped design infused with atonal yet eastern influenced melismatic motives, microtonal effects, and passionately exciting lyrical gestures, shaped with registral leaps and grace notes to add incisive rhythm. Virtuosity continued in the Japanese violinist Sayaka Kurata’s stirring interpretation of Ballade for solo violin by Ben Zion Orgad (1926-2006) , one of the foremost composers of the 2nd generation, born in Europe but educated in Palestine where he emigrated in 1933. Orgad, like his contemporary Tzvi Avni, forged an individual synthesis of eastern oriental elements of his teacher Paul Ben-Haim with modernist trends of Josef Tal and the 1960s avant-garde. In this neo Ysaye-esque solo violin work traditional Jewish cantillation elements interact with modernist expressionistic textures, developed again in a large scale ternary form, with forceful projection of eh main recurring motifs on which the structure was built. Kurata displayed confidence and virtuosity a plenty, communicating the complex textures with potent expression and holding the audience spellbound. The final work for the Israeli competition was the British violinist Eleanor Corr, who gave an ebullient and characterful rendition of Three Jewish Dances by Marc Lavry (1903-1967), one of the pioneer generation of Israeli composers, originally from Riga, and who studied in Leipzig and Berlin, coming to Palestine in 1935.  Lavry’s music deserves revival, including his opera, Dan the Guard in 1948, and a host of songs, choral and instrumental music, often in lighter styles. Miss Corr produced a ravishing tone in the jaunty outer dances, the final one a fizzing ‘hora’, and beguiling lyricism in the gentle central aria.

Intertwined with the Israeli works were four admirable Bloch performances. Polish violinist Magdalena Filipczak gave a strident account of the Nigun, though one missed some supple expressivity required of the style, and intonation was occasionally shaky. Canadian flautist Lindsay Bryden showed mature musicianship in her balanced and evocative account of the Suite Modale (1956), her tender tone finely supported by the accomplished accompanist. Each movement flowed with delicacy the lively third movement followed by a compelling finale. The 16-year old French cellist Raphael Unger impressed with a polished and heartfelt performance of Nigun in the cello version, producing a sweet and impassioned tone. Yet it was the rich and rounded vocal projection of Japanese mezzo-soprano Ayaka Tanimoto who crowned the evening with a superb rendition of Historiettes au Crepuscule., six songs composed in 1903-4 to poems by Camille Mauclair which merge idioms of Debussy and Ravel, characteristic of Bloch’s ‘Paris’ period. Ayaka Tanimoto brought contrasts of character to each song with engaging inflections shaping a direction from the slow lyrical opening song Legendes, the brighter second song Les Fleurs, impassioned third, evocative Ronde fourth and playful fifth, with its sober framing sections, and equally dancelike Complainte sixth song, melding into a more plangent expression.

During the Jury recess the audience were regaled with a sparkling performance of popular classical and Israeli pieces by the six violinists of the Acco Soloists and their musical director. Works by Bach, Tchaikovsky mingled with Israeli favorities Hallelujah and Hava Nagila in exuberant arrangements which highlighted soloistic and ensemble skills from the players, from teenage to thirty-something.

At the Award ceremony following the performances, Sagi Hartov thanked the RCM for hosting the event, and the competition sponsors, the Ferdinand Beck Foundation (sponsors of the Israeli Competition) and Rabbi Norman Solomon of the International Ernest Bloch Society, for the Bloch prizes.  First prize was awarded to Ayaka Tanimoto and second prize to Lindsay Bryden, whilst for the Israeli Competition, first prize was awarded to Sayaka Kurata, and second prize to Eleanor Corr. Apart from generous cash awards, each winner receives solo recitals and orchestral appearances, and for the first winner of the Israeli Competition, a recording made at the Jerusalem Music Centre.

The competition began four years ago with just a few competitors; this year saw a record breaking 22,000 hits on the competition website, with some 500 interested participants leading to 122 formal applications, and 22 semi-finalists. For future competitions, it would seem important to point out the value of having programme notes as well as song texts where relevant. At the very least, movement titles; names of accompanists were also conspicuously missing. Moreover formal acknowledgement of the semifinalists contribution would be of interest to audience members. Despite this, the event as a whole underlined the wealth of talent and richness of repertoire in both competitions and offered a worthwhile platform for young performers in search of new works. Certainly all the finalists, and one suspects many of the other participants, showed immense promise and one awaits the chance to see and hear their performances at future competitions and concerts.

Malcolm Miller © 2011, London UK


Deft Stagecraft and Virtuosity

Bloch and Israeli Music heard by MALCOLM MILLER

There was an exciting display of musical talent, colourful instrumentation and fascinating unfamiliar 20th and 21st century repertoire to be savoured at the double competition event held at the Britten Theatre of the Royal College of Music in London last week (15 July 2010). One hundred and forty competitors from more than forty eight different countries, including Europe, USA, South America and the Far East entered for the Third International Israeli Music Competition and the Second International Ernest Bloch Competition, from which twenty two were selected for the semi-finals on 11 July, and six soloists and ensembles selected for the finals.

Since the launch of the competition two years ago, the cellist and impresario Sagi Hartov has developed it this year with initiative, energy and vision, into a first league event, with patronage from Dame Fanny Waterman and Ernest Bloch II -- the composer's grandson -- as well as significant cash prizes, and concerts and recordings for the winners in both Israel and the UK. Certainly the distinguished array of leading musicians on the Jury (amongst them Sarah Aaronson, Daniel Adni, Teresa Cahill, Julian Dawes, Paul de Keyser, Norma Fisher, Benjamin Frith, Florian Leonhard, Maureen Smith, Professor Malcolm Troup and Lauren Weavers) attested to the increasing importance given to the competitions, which have gained a regular place in the UK's musical calendar -- the next one is scheduled for July 2011 -- and were recorded for broadcast on Israeli Classical Music radio 'Kol Yisrael'.

The proceedings opened with a welcome speech by Lilian Hochhauser FRCM, the Israeli Music Competition's president, while the compere of the evening, cantor Steven Leas of the Central Synagogue, Portland Place, introduced each performance, starting with the flautist Pavel Mansurov, who, accompanied by Peter Limonov, gave a riveting and artful performance of Bloch's Suite Modale. Each movement was eloquently shaded, with plenty of rhythmic delicacy in the fast third and final movements, and a sensitivity to the modal melodic shapes of the slower movements. He was followed by the Ishizuka/Hertzka duo, in which violinist Yuka Ishizuka gave a forthright account of Bloch's famous 'Nigun', from the Ba'al Shem Suite, strongly supported by the pianist Nadav Hertzka. Finely focused and attentive to detail, they followed it with a bravura, characterful rendition of the Improvisation and Dance Op 30 by Paul Ben-Haim, a work which abounds in folkloric flavours of Eastern Mediterranean style, a blend of middle eastern modes and dance rhythms with the idioms of late-Impressionism and Modernism.

More classic Israeli styles ensued with the mandolinist Alon Sariel, responsively accompanied on the piano by Masha Yulin, whose interpretation of Three Jewish Dances by Marc Lavry balanced beautiful sound colours and delicate lyricism in the central 'Wedding Dance', with the fizzing energy of the outer dances, 'Sher' and 'Hora'. Yet especially remarkable and poignant was Sariel's performance of his own arrangement of Bloch's 'Nigun', with the vigour and passion of the original unexpectedly communicated through vigorous tremolos and resonant projection of line and chord, coloured by the mandolin's distinctive mellow timbre. His intensity and inner penetration into the rhapsodic character of the piece impressed both audience and jury.

The fourth competitors were the members of the Cerulean Trio, Eloisa-Fleur Thom, violin, Matthew Lowe, cello, and James Baillieu, piano whose reading of Bloch's Nocturnes brought out the translucent textures in the three movements, with dramatic impetus in the final 'Tempestuoso', responsive to the rhetoric of dialogue and colour in Bloch's unique work for that chamber music combination. The only singer to appear in the finals was Ayelet Cohen, whose rich and resilient soprano voice conveyed the expressive and often disquieting emotional inflections in a song cycle by Aharon Harlap, one of Israel's leading composers. Ayelet Cohen's mellifluous chromatic melody highlighted the vivid imagery of five poems by Jacob Barzilai on the theme of the Holocaust, her high lines countered by the almost dry caustic patterned accompaniments and extended epilogues evocatively projected by the excellent accompanist Siobhain O'Higgins, often in imitation with the flute, played by eleven-year-old Marianna Zotnacz, the youngest competitor.

The final ensemble was the Helix Percussion Duo, Catherine Ring and Louise Morgan, who gave a stunning virtuoso display in Octabones by Adi Morag, a young Israeli percussionist-composer. The piece unfolds a tripartite form in which the outer sections develop a modal arc shaped motif coloured by various tremolos to provide harmonic support. Their switch to soft mallets in the central section elicited uncanny colours with ambient resonances before the more percussive sticks resumed. Focused and dancing while playing, one notable feature was how they appeared to play each other's marimbas by reaching over the keyboard.

Their deft stagecraft and virtuosity left the distinguished Jury in no doubt of a winner, and they received the first prize in the Israeli Music Competition, a substantial cash award generously donated by the Ferdinand Beck Institute, as well as a recital and recording under the aegis of the Jerusalem Music Centre. First prize for the Bloch Competition was awarded to Alon Sariel, whose artistry was also recognized with the second prize of the Israeli Music Competition, while second prize for the Bloch Competition went to the Cerulean Trio.

Malcolm Troup, chairman of the International Ernest Bloch Society, presented the Bloch awards, also substantial cash prizes donated by the IEBS, and made mention of the sad passing, earlier that day, of Sir Charles Mackerras, Hon President of the IEBS, who was due to conduct at this year's BBC Proms. As the chairman of the jury, Sagi Hartov, emphasised, all the competitors had achieved a very high standard, and one hopes that with new repertoire and exposure to new audiences, all the competitors were, in a very real sense, winners. Hartov also emphasised that the main prize-winners are also scheduled to appear in London in concerts presented by the North London Symphony Orchestra and by the Jewish Music Institute, as part of a forthcoming conference Art Musics of Israel in March 2011. Details of the 2011 competitions are available on the websites and

Copyright © 20 July 2010 Malcolm Miller, London UK

Review of 5th Israeli and 4th Ernest Bloch Music Competitions


Potent Emphasis

MALCOLM MILLER was at the recent Bloch and Israeli Music competitions

A wealth of talent and a fascinating programme of unfamiliar gems were on offer at the finals of the 5th Israeli Music Competition and 4th Ernest Bloch Music Competition held as a combined event at the Britten Theatre of the Royal College of Music in London on 12 July 2012. The event was organized by Sagi Hartov, founder-director of the competitions and a concert cellist, who presided over a distinguished jury comprising International Ernest Bloch Society (IEBS) chairman Malcolm Troup, the composer Julian Dawes, Florian Leonhard, Sarah Aaronson, Benjamin Frith, John Todd, Ivan Yanakov and Daniel Alexander. The double competition was generously sponsored by Norman Solomon of the IEBS, for the Bloch Prizes, and the Ferdinand Beck Foundation for the Israeli Music Prizes. The finals featured eight competitors, four for each competition, out of an initial cohort of over 120 entrants, all of whose performances at the finals regaled a sizeable audience with a rich cross section of works from each category. As was evident overall, all displayed impressively high artistic standards despite the disparity in backgrounds and experience, and impressed both the distinguished jury and enthusiastic audience with profound and technically assured responses to repertoire much of which is seldom performed. Though necessarily for any competition, winners (four in total) were selected for prizes ranging from cash to concerts, both the finals and the earlier stages symbolised the value of the event as a whole as a platform for the cultivation of still little known repertoire that rewards polished professionalism for the enrichment of both performer and audience.

The four works chosen by the Bloch competition finalists offered a selection remarkable for its variety of genre as of style, thus reflecting the breadth and diversity of the composer himself. To begin was Bloch's Suite Modale (1956) to which the Dutch recorder player Cornelis van Dis, both a performer and doctoral student in early music, brought an enchanting sense of period music purity. His fine musicality was displayed both in his attention to the work's structure and style. Attention to details, clarity of phrasing and subtlety of dynamics, expressively varied within the constraints of the recorder's potential, were all evinced in the flowing first and second movements, the dance like buoyancy of the third and the more orientalised expressiveness of the finale with its changes of slow and fast tempi.

Van Dis's choice of recorder instead of the flute, for which it was composed, tapped into an intrinsic quality of the music, its evocation of the past, both in the ancient sounding modality referred to in the title, and its contrapuntal discourse in which Bloch was increasingly immersed during his last years. The modality at times echoes the search for the sources of the past of the French nationalist composers of the early twentieth century, a milieu in which Bloch's styles took shape, whilst in the final movement a more Eastern, even Jewish, modality may be discerned. Throughout, the recorder conveyed a most attractive, if delicate tone, which Van Dis handled with agility, adding in vibrato and attack and the like, partnered with sensitivity by his accompanist, whose name however did not appear in the programme.

In the first movement the rising theme was introduced with beauty of tone, and developed with a wide range of dynamics and a wistfulness to the open-ended modal melody. Even more flowing was the second movement, Debussyesque suppleness of melodic shape and harmonies, counterpointed by the piano. The chirpier third movement recalled Renaissance idioms, while the central section relaxed into a contrasting mood before retrieving the earlier brightness at the conclusion. The final movement abounded in contrasts of its slow recurring sections in between baroque styled episodes. Overall Van Dis gave an excellent reading that was touching in sonority, fluid and expressive, Bloch's intentions projected with poetry.

It was fascinating to contrast the refined vision of Bloch's late neo-classical period with the more vigorous passion of his youthful 'Jewish' works, as exemplified in the ever popular 'Nigun' from the Baal Shem Suite of 1923. If the first three Bloch competitions featured quite a range of interpretations of this work, here we were treated to just one, a compelling one at that, infused with flair and intensity, by the young Israeli-trained violinist David Strongin, currently studying at the Hannover Hochschule. Partnered with robust richness by Stephen Gutman, official competition accompanist, Strongin's impassioned account began in suitably rich rhapsodic style, maintaining a sense of exciting forward drive to the very eloquent final section. There was a tendency to sustain the same level of forte for too long, with little nuance, and to risk some misbowings as a result, as in the strident octave version of the main theme. Similarly, Strongin could have responded a little more to the more inwardly reflective aspects of the music, but nonetheless his intensity was fully immersed in the Blochian Jewish style, allowing the rhythmic tension to relax in the final section, with its poignantly repeated gestures.

Also from the late period was Bloch's Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra, a remarkable work composed in 1954 in Oregon and here performed with aplomb by Tobias Schiessler, Professor of Trombone at the Hannover Hochschule, who has impressive experience of performing contemporary trombone concertos including a premiere of one by Gubaidulina. Schiessler's outstanding performance of Bloch's seldom-played and rather unique score projected its dissonantly chromatic yet lyrical aspects with formidable tonal control. Bloch here responds both to the stereotypical brass character of the trombone, its fanfares and vivid attacks, yet ingeniously transforming the connotations into a lyrical, poetic medium. Whilst it foregrounded the trombone throughout, the work's title of 'symphony' might refer to its focus on thematic processes with extensive development of the initial motif introduced starkly by solo trombone, evolving the ensuing exchanges between soloist and the piano/orchestra. Accompanied boldly by Stephen Gutman, Schiessler produced a wide range of evocative phrasings and varied dynamic gradations, with an especially sweet, mellow tone in the demanding high register passages, and more idiomatic drama in the fanfare-like textures redolent of Walton or even Bernstein. One of the highpoints was the concertoesque cadenza featuring a trombone rhapsody over a sustained piano/orchestral tremolo. The faster, more chromatic development led to an eloquent pianissimo solo passage, before the lyrical conclusion. Here one sensed the command of a professional soloist with great tonal qualities and a sense of involvement and communication. Though unusual as a medium, the trombone piece deserves more performances, as do many of Bloch's less familiar works.

The final competitors were the recently formed Palomino Quartet, all former members of Southbank Sinfonia, who gave a stirring account of Bloch's Deux Pieces for String Quartet to round off the Bloch competition programme with aplomb. Sketched in 1938 in the Haute Savoie, Switzerland, at around the same time as the Sacred Service, and completed after WWII in Agate Beach, in 1950, the piece spans two contrasting periods in Bloch's style development. Thus, while structurally similar to late works such as the Suite Modale and the Symphony for Trombone, it displays an intensity and expressivity closer to the youthful works including the 'Jewish Cycle'. Dedicated to the Griller Quartet, the two movements engage with highly chromatic and almost atonal harmony, using a referential dissonant sonority stated at the outset of the 'Andante Moderato'. In the first piece the Palomino projected, with potent emphasis, the initial arresting dissonant chord, a referential sonority to which Bloch returns repeatedly. Throughout the performance an impressive sense of purpose and unanimity of articulation was evident, as in the frequent homophonic passages, the angular melodic writing and more impressionistic textures such as shimmering chords and high melodies, somewhat redolent of Bliss and Ravel. The Palomino imbued the central section with admirable drama, rapid fluctuations of dynamics and a dotted rhythmic motif well conveyed, returning to the chromatic and dissonant harmony of the start. In the second piece some of the faster, marcato textures sometimes seemed ragged and rough, requiring more coordination, yet as a whole the performance was engagingly managed.

The programme for the Israeli Competition offered a remarkable cross-section of repertoire from Israel, starting with the eloquently lyrical Yefei Nof for solo flute by Yardena Alotin (1930-1994), eloquently played by Dutch flautist Tim Wintersohl, who conveyed its flowing melismatic modality with delicate grace notes suggesting the sonorities of the Arabic shepherd flutes or 'ney'. The second competitor was the young British cellist Ella Rundle whose engaging performance of Menachem Wiesenberg's more modernist Like Clay in the Potter's Hand, brought appealing tonal qualities to the evolving chamber music partnership between the cello and piano. (It was originally composed for viola and piano.) Ella Rundle, a graduate of the Menuhin School and the Guildhall and currently studying in Berlin, displayed incisive bowing and finely coordinated ensemble with her pianist, as the processive design unfolded from the initial intense lyricism framed by the piano's impressionistic glissandi, through the more discursive modernist section, with its intricate interactions. The climactic fast unison passage was excitingly projected, leading to a heartfelt conclusion retrieving the cello's soulful repetitions of the pervasive motto.

Compelling virtuosity was evident in For an actor: Monologue by Sulamit Ran, one of the most avant-garde acclaimed Israeli-American composers of her generation, which received a vivid characterisation by clarinettist Paul Vowles. An experienced performer, graduate of the RNCM and Eastman School, Vowles' projection of the variety of gestures and mercurial contrasts of rhythm, register and dynamics was impressive. Especially arresting were his sparkling rising scales, emphasis of syncopated peak notes evolving into motifs later developed in contrasting alternations of slowly etched lyrical motifs and rapid passagework. The panoply of clarinet effects, such as overblowing, sudden leaps and dynamics changes, breathy sounds and shouting were entertaining, reminding one of Luciano Berio's solo Sequenza series.

To conclude, Inbar Vernia from Israel performed Tzvi Avni's evocative Fantasy for harp solo, with much richness of harmony, delicate tracery and glissando effects.

The jury decision in the Bloch Competition awarded first prize to the trombonist Tobias Schiessler, with second prize awarded to David Strongin, both winners interestingly currently connected to the Hannover Hochschule. For the Israeli Competition, the Jury awarded first prize to clarinettist Paul Vowles, with second prize to cellist Ella Rundle.

All prize winners received both cash awards and the chance to perform in recitals in notable venues, with orchestra and, for the Israeli prizewinner, to make recordings at the Jerusalem Music Centre in the coming year. One awaits further details (see website links below) of future winners' concerts and recordings eagerly, as also performances by all the participants in what was a most rewarding concert of unfamiliar, inspiring repertoire.

Malcolm Miller © 15 August 2012, London UK


UK Musicians Triumph at Israeli Competition

London Myriad EnsembleIt was a night to remember for two young classical music ensembles from the UK who scooped first and second prize at the 2nd International Israeli Music Competition.

The winners beat off competition for the title from six finalists out of 70 musicians from 25 different countries, whose ages ranged from 10 to 47.

Performing at the final of the competition [...] at the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music, wind quintet The London Myriad Ensemble won the nine judges over with their spritely rendition of Tzvi Avni’s Woodwind Quintet to claim first prize and a solo performance at the Purcell Room at the Southbank Centre in November.

The quintet, who are Julie Groves on flute, Jenni Britton on oboe, Nadia Wilson on clarinet, Susanna Dias on bassoon and Paul Cott on French horn, specialise in chamber music, but also have a love of modern compositions.

Nadia explained how she became involved with Israeli music last year at the competition when she entered as a soloist: "I love the freedom of this kind of music. It really gives you the oppertunity to be flexible."

Julie added: "It's such a new experience for us, it's really different to what we would usually play. We'd love to play more Israeli music, it would be great to do a tour."

The group, who have been playing together for five years since a love of chamber music brought them together at college, will play their Tzvi Avni at their Purcell Room performance.

The ensemble was closely matched by second prize-winners, who are also UK-based, although members of The Browdowski Quartet come from England, Wales, Scotland and Germany. The string quartet gave a moving performance of Tzvi Avni’s String Quartet No 3.

The UK’s other representative, solo cellist James Barralet was placed fifth for his performance of Three Songs without Music by P. Ben Haim.

The judges, who included composer Julian Dawes, Sarah Aaronson, the director of the London International Orchestra and violinist John Bradbury, the ex-leader of the BBC concert orchestra, also saw Israeli music performances from Ireland’s Roisin Walters on violin, Sacha Gynyuk from the Ukraine on piano and Russian Maksim Beitans on cello.

Chairman of the judges, Sagi Hartov [...] said it had been “an amazing evening”.

He added: “Of course, I’m disappointed there were no Israelis in the final, but the competition is very fair and only the best will win.”

This year [...] also [saw the first] [...] competition to honour Swiss-born Jewish composer Ernest Bloch, the Ernest Bloch Music Competition, and the winner was Irish violinist Róisín Walters, who was also placed fourth in the Israeli Music Competition.

She too will give a solo performance at the Purcell Room in November.


By Jessica Elgot, July 17, 2009

[Link to original article]


Let The Music Play!

The Spiro Ark, through its department Tzavta ('togetherness' in Hebrew), has made great effort to publicise a better image of Israel through offering regular, outstanding, cultural events, mainly at its West End Centre in Enford Street, London, opposite the Landmark Hotel.

Sagi Hartov, Chairman of the Israeli Music CompetitionSagi Hartov, cellist and cultural enthusiast, is the ideal person to run Tzavta. Like us, he shares the passion to arrange worthwhile Israeli activities and events which will have an impact both within and outside the Jewish community.

The Spiro Ark's small but dedicated team of staff - for whom no challenge is too great - is invaluable in bringing our ideas to fruition. Although most of the events we organise are comparatively modeset, we also arrange larger-scale activities. One such has been to create a London-based International Israeli Music Competition.

When the idea was first mooted some 18 months ago, all those we discussed it with laughed and said that anyone engaged in such fantasies needed their brains tested - "impossible", "unrealistic" and certainly no one was prepared to assist financially. So once again the Spiro Ark had the task of "backing" a vision. But o nthe other hand we were encouraged by certain important individuals, such as Dame Fanny Waterman, creator of the Leeds Music Competition and composer Michael Wolpe, who told us that if such a dream did materialise, they would stand behind it.

Lilian Hochhauser, who has been a keen supporter of the work of both the Spiro Institute and the Spiro Ark, has been. She is President of, our music programme and was perhaps alone in giving us the confidence needed. Sir Sidney and Rosa Lipworth also expressed their support.

For the first year, 2008, we had 30 candidates from fice countries. This year we had 70 candidates from 25 countries. For this extraordinary result I must first give redit to the Israeli Cultural Attaches around the globe, who have advertised the competition widely via local orchestras, music academies, concert halls, music shops and teachers. Last year's successful petition also helped, with the Spiro Ark Tzavta's name having achieved international renown.

This year, we were also approached by the Boch Society, which was launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary in 2009 of ccomposer Ernest Bloch's dearth. The idea was to add a second competition to ours, to commemorate the anniversary. And as we are "in the business" of spreading a knowledge of Jewish as well as Israeli history and culture, we welcomed the proposal.

Both the semi-finals and the finals of the competitions were exciting and demanding, with a consistent standard of excellence which made the distinguished judges' job a difficult one. As regards the double competition, the entrants were required to play either a Bloch piece or one by an Israeli composer. Some even opted to enter the two.

Bloch's work is in many ways very Jewish, but can communicate with all humanity as was witnessed in this case. Candidates from as far afield as China and Latvia performed Bloch's works with intensity and true feeling. Paritcularly ipressive was the performance of the 10-year-old prodigy Sheka Kanneh-Mason, who played the first part of "From Jewish Life" with amazing understanding and virtuosity.

The Baal Shem Tov piece was played both by violinists and cellists, successfully injecting their own personalities into this most Jewish of Bloch's work.

The entrants in both competitions showed extraordinary understanding, albeit with different approaches from the different instruments played - flute, clarinet, oboe and violin. Each responded in his or her own way to the Mediterranean style which combined music from the East and the West, coming out of Israel's melting pot, and which also represented three generations of composers.

In these two competitions, there may have been only two winners but, I am happy to say, there were no losers. And the nature of the challenge gave all participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in unfamiliar musical styles.
The finals took place at the Royal College of Music and were introduced by Mrs Hochhauser, who was very complimentary to the Spiro Ark 'skeleton' organisation for arranging such wonderful and important events; especrially as far as both Jewish and Israeli culture is concerned. It takes hard work, dedication, sweat and sometimes tears to achieve such an enormous task.

Greeting were also given on a large screen by israel's Minister of Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat, who said: "I am honoured to congratulate this second International Music Competition, a unique and original enterprise. This initiative has been initiated by the Spiro Ark and its Tzavta department. Seventy gifted musicians from 25 countries have performed a dream come true for any Israeli Minister of Culture and indeed for any Israeli.

The evening was narrated by Hayuta Devir, the producer, editor and presenter of Kol Hamusika, the equivalent programme to Classic FM and Radio 3 combined. The finals of the competition will be broadcast in Hayuta's programme in Israel.
The veteran Israeli composer and guest of honour, Yehezkel Brown, said in his moving address: "Israel, my native land, is small in size and in population but as far as music is concerned its international importance seems to be far greater than the size would suggest. Nevertheless, I am sure I am speaking now on behalf of many of my fellow Israeli composers when I say how proud I am at this moment, realising that a musical competition, wholly dedicated to the music of my tiny little country, takes place in this great city of London".

London Myriad EnsembleThe winners of the Israeli Music Competition were the Myriad Ensemble, a chamber group. Their prize of £1,000 was donated by the Israeli Bank Leumi, whose Managing Director, Lawrence Weiss, has written: "It is with great interest that we have watched now a truly international event. The bank sees great value supporting events such as this one which promote Israeli culture to the rest of the world and as such is delighted to be involved with this year's competition."
In addition, the winners have been offered the opportunity to appear in a concert organised by the JMI this November in the Purcell Room.

Róisín WaltersThe Bloch competition was won by Irish violinist Róisín Walters. Her prize of £500 was donated by the Bloch Society. Róisín has also been invited to play in a further concert with the London International Symphony Orchestra, run by Sarah Aaronson.

Following the finals, we received many complimentary messages. I would like to quote two. Sunny, a girl of 13, wrote: "I loved the competition. I am now inspired to take up the flute and spend much time practising." Her sister, Yarden, age nine, was particularly impressed by the pianist Sasha Grynyuk. "I would like to hear is wonderful playing again."
The Spiro Ark thanks all those who so generously supported the event: Bank Leumi, the Bloch Society, the Jewish News and Media Group, the Royal College of Music, Osem, Likud Herut UK, JMI and the Forum of Israeli Music, the Israeli Music Institute, and Jaffa and Gilad Limor.

We are now working towards the 3rd International Israeli Music Competition.


[Link to original article]

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