Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society

The Joy of Rare Synchronicity

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It is rare that things fall into place. Last night I had a rare experience. The setting: the “house that Issac Stern” built, The Jerusalem Music Center, the pearl of music making in the Middle East. The composer: Benoît Menut, a 41-year old amazing talent from France. The performers: Tehila Nini Goldstein, multi-talented vocalist and Michaël Dian, brilliant pianist and Director of the Festival de Chaillol in the French Alps. The author: famous French writer and storyteller, Jean Giono, (“Le Petit Garçon qui avait Envie D’espace”-“The Little Boy Who Wanted Space”) and his timeless story about a little boy who just want to see the expansive world from above the treetops. Giono’s writing is also about the magical beauty of France’s mountain landscapes.

Pictures above: 1) Pianist Michaël Dian and vocalist Tehila Goldstein Nini; 2) Michael Dian; composer  Benoît Minut and translator Nir Ratzkovsky 3) Michaël Dian.

Though I had heard the piece before in its original French version, I did not know what to expect in the premier of its Hebrew translation (by Nir Ratzkovsky) with the original music. Would the Hebrew convey the same sensual message as the French? What about the number of syllables? What about the harsher Hebrew sounds? Would they do justice to the elegance of the music, emanating from the sensuous French language? My worries were immediately dispersed after the first ten minutes of listening.

Half the audience was “peopled” by children, average age 9-10. For new music, having such an audience is the pan-ultimate test!  And in the performance I witnessed, the children were remarkably focused and interested.  This is a tribute to many things: the positive attitude of the performers, a story that actively “spoke” to minds and souls of the young audience, the relaxed manner of the performers, the natural flow of music: often ocean-like, morphing to winds in trees, then morphing to a gigantic smile!.

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The long piano introduction set the scene, and weaved in and out of emotive and impressionist phrases; then the narrator/singer entered. Nini’s facial expressions were priceless, not overstated, but, like Menut’s music, built from just the right amount of emotion and often restraint. Nini’s reading was clear, and singing divine. Dian’s virtuoso playing carried the momentum throughout, with impeccable nuance, detail and expression. The piece lasted for thirty seven minutes without intermission, and even toward the end, most the children were still rooted in the experience. (In such concerts, we often have to strain to hear performers over the din of youthful laughter). I asked myself “why” were the youth so focused?  The music was certainly not one’s average “fare”, (it had its challenges, moving from tonal center, to multiple tonal centers, to a many layered universe).  I came to the conclusion that, in the end, it was first and foremost the STORY that spoke to the children with the music being its mysterious ever-changing essence. The “tale” was about a young boy whose life was becoming too constrained;  he wanted to climb high up over the trees to see what was beyond. By the end of the plot, the boy finally discovers his imagination, and his own ability to be anywhere, to feel anywhere, and to be “free”.

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When the sun hits the clouds a certain way, and creates many hues of reds, oranges, even blues, we call this “synchronicity”. When we see an AMAZING sunset, where the colors are particularly vivid and even G-d-like, we call it “rare synchronicity”. When a world-class young composer, works with two amazing performers, with the music sounded on one of the best Steinway’s perhaps ever made, with the performance of a piece composed by one of France’s most loved writers…all of which is set in the mythical “house that Issac Stern built” (with walls that remember the past: the world’s greatest performers and music). When all that comes together, we have a “rare synchronicity”: one of those moments in life which American philosopher John Dewey calls “an experience”, that once-in-a-lifetime meal in Paris, that incredible conversation with a friend, witnessing the birth of your child…which is irreplaceable and unique.

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For me, last night’s performance was quite like that. All things came together, great music, great performing, great text, great milieu, wonderful audience and the spirit of the place. Congratulations to all the performers, the composer, to the Institut Français d’Israël and the French Embassy who made it all possible, to the La Saison France-Israël 2018 (The France-Israel Season/2018 of cultural cooperation) and to those who made this a reality, to the Cameri Theatre who hosted the Tel Aviv performances and to the Jerusalem Music Center who agreed to host this priceless one-time Jerusalem event. I, for one, will certainly not forget it!  For me this was truly a remarkable “an experience”, one I shall remember for a long time.

“Civilization tries to persuade us we are going towards something, a distant goal.  We have forgotten that our only goal is to live, to live each and every day, and that if we live each and every day, our true goal is achieved”–Jean Giono

“Remember, all of man’s happiness is in the little valleys. Tiny little ones. Small enough to call from one side to the other.”–Jean Giono

“This morning, beautiful first, in Hebrew, of our little boy, in the intimate setting of the café Theatre du Cameri. A careful and captivated class. Happiness to see children seized by the delicacy of a text, carried by the magic of a partition. All over the world, children are children…”(words of a parent who attended the piece at Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv)

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About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.