Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

A Hidden Gem

Ron Regev at the piano (photo, Yigal Shefer)

The series of chamber concerts with explanations organised by the Music Academy in Jerusalem is one of the hidden gems of the city’s music scene. The series, which is now in its twenty-fourth season, consists of a selection of music based on a theme, a composer, or a group of composers, and is performed primarily by teachers (and sometimes students too) of the Academy. We have been attending these monthly concerts for the last twenty years, and have almost always enjoyed them immensely. Unfortunately, attendance at the concerts is diminishing over time as the die-hard kernel of devotees is gradually being reduced (by natural causes).

When we first started attending the concerts they were held in the imposing Wise Auditorium on the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus. The musician who initiated, lectured and played at many of the concerts was Professor Assaf Zohar, who now teaches at the Buchman-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv. For a few years after that the concerts were held in the Music Academy itself but in recent years the venue has been the comfortable Rebecca Crown auditorium, which is part of the Jerusalem Theatre complex also known as the Jerusalem Center for the Performing Arts.

Some of the recent performances have focused on the subject of family ties. Thus, when we heard piano pieces composed by Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn it was not always easy to distinguish which piece had been written by whom, and the same applied to works by Robert and Clara Schumann. This was quite an eye-opener for me, and only goes to show that sexism has prevailed in music just as it has in society as a whole.

In recent years Dr. Ron Regev, the head of the Academy’s piano department, has taken over at the head of the concerts, injecting his own personal touch of brilliance to the programme. Apart from being a virtuoso pianist, Professor Regev is also an engaging and inspiring speaker, and to hear him talk about the music he and his colleagues are about to play is always enjoyable and uplifting.

The title of the current series of concerts, ‘Language and Style,’ provides ample scope for including a varied selection of music in each programme. The concert we attended last week was entitled ‘The Romantic Flute,’ and included pieces by French composer Cecile Chaminade, Bohuslav Martinu and Felix Mendelssohn for combinations of flute, cello and piano, allowing Dr. Regev and his colleagues to display the full gamut of their talents. The final piece of music they played was Mendelssohn’s beautiful trio for violin, cello and piano, opus 49, with the flute (admirably played by Professor Yossi Arnheim) substituting for the violin.

In his introductory remarks Dr. Regev said that this trio had been the subject of his doctoral dissertation, and that it was particularly close to his heart. He described how Mendelssohn had struggled when composing it, changing and amending it several times, until eventually settling reluctantly for the current version (which is exquisite). The programme notes distributed before the concert state that this dissertation gained the Richard Franz Prize for outstanding doctoral dissertation awarded by the Juilliard Conservatory in its centenary year, and also constituted the basis of the lecture and concert given by Dr. Regev at the Library of Congress in Washington.

It goes without saying that the performance of the Mendelssohn trio by Ron Regev, Yossi Arnheim and cellist Shmuel Magen gave every beautiful and brilliant note of this captivating piece of music its right and proper place, providing the audience with a musical experience of unparalleled excellence. Although the auditorium was not full, the audience gave the musicians well-deserved lengthy and enthusiastic applause.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.