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The 2017 Eilat Chamber Music Festival took place from February 1st to 4th. It was hosted by the Dan Eilat Hotel, with concerts taking place in the hotel’s Tarshish Hall and the Big Blue Hall. As befits a festival, the Eilat performances offered some programs that were very different to mainstream concert fare. One of the most unique and significant concerts was Israeli pianist Amir Katz’ “Hommage an Liszt”, a complete recital of Liszt Études. In his program notes, Katz reminds the listener that these pieces “represent the peak of writing for piano of the Romantic period”.

 

Katz takes the listener into the world of Liszt Études with the much-loved “Liebestraum” (Dream of Love) No.3, Liszt’s setting of Ferdinand Freilgrath’s impassioned “O lieb’, so lang du lieben kannst” (Oh love, as long as you can love). Known for its singing melody and delicacy, Amir Katz, chose some daring pedalling, orchestrating the nocturne’s demanding sequences with its network of “undercurrents”, its farewell leaving the listener once more in the mystery of his own musings. Then to “Trois études de concert” (1845-1849), suitably referred to by his Paris publisher as “caprices poétiques”. From “Il lamento” (The Lament), in which Katz fires the imagination with the drama inherent in tonal processes, in dissonances melting into harmonic tranquillity, with imposing utterances juxtaposed with fragility, he moves into “La Leggierezza” (Lightness), floating its weightless intricacy, presenting its intensity, his deft, splendidly clean fingerwork taking one back to the gossamer textures of lightness. No less rewarding was his performance of the Impressionistically-hued “Un sospiro” (A Sigh), its huge technical demands (dramatic and theatrical effects in Liszt’s own performances) in no way hampering Katz’ silken melodic lines and the shimmering, flowing arpeggios.

 

Then to the “Zwei Konzertetüden” (1862-1863) composed by Liszt in Rome, with Katz’ playing of “Waldesrauschen” (Forest Murmurs) richly poetic and abundant in nature associations, followed by the playful, imaginative portrayal of “Gnomenreigen” (Dance of the Gnomes), Katz directing the listener’s attention to the piece’s impish, hopping, good-natured whimsy rather than to the fact that this is one of Liszt’s most difficult piano pieces!

 

The second part of the program consisted of Franz Liszt’s “Transcendental Études”, a work begun when the composer was in his teens with its final version published in 1852, when the composer was 41. One of the most challenging piano works of the Romantic repertoire, Schumann viewed the 1838 version of it as “studies in storm and dread for, at the most, ten or twelve players in the world.” In his program notes, Katz, offering the audience the rare opportunity of hearing the work in its entirety, writes that, in his opinion, “transcendental” refers to the work’s “philosophical aspect rather than to the technical side.” Opening with the momentary but uncompromisingly energetic “Preludio”, Katz invites his listeners to join him on a journey of vivid pianistic performance and intense emotions. A kaleidoscope of piano techniques, of the timbres created by textures and registers, of programmatic content (“Mazeppa”, for example) or visual associations, Katz’ warmth of tone and spontaneity, served by his unfaltering technique, gave the pieces an air of freshness, of endless discovery. And beauty of melody is high up on his list of priorities. Creating contrasts between pieces of high drama and massive textures, Katz’ signature tenderness and sensibility was woven into the flowing tranquillity of “Paysage” (Landscape), the subdued swirling and strangely dissonant “Feux Follets” (Will-o-the Wisps), or the personal expression of nostalgia and delicate, ornamented old-world sentiments of “Ricordanza” (Remembrance).

 

The Liszt recital is indeed a major milestone in Amir Katz’ career.  The “12 Études d’éxécution transcendante” constitute a large, all-encompassing slice of life. In presenting them, Katz offers his audience a ravishing array of colours and dynamics in playing that is compelling and frequently stormy but never overblown or opaque. And his interpretation of Liszt is refreshingly devoid of egoism. In Amir Katz’ own words: “Performing the Études as a cycle is a captivating and rigorous autobiographical journey for both listener and performer.”

 

Photo: Maxim Reider

 

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​PM Netanyahu: We face common challenges, the first of which is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world and threaten both our countries. We must stand together in this battle, much as we work together to perfect the future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, this evening (Tuesday, 4 July 2017), at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Among the panelists were popular journalist Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes. Former IDF commander Miri Eisin and Israeli Olympic athlete Maayan Davidovich.

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At a festive ceremony attended by Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, the Lauder Dormitory Building was inaugurated today at the Technion
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President Rivlin welcomed her and said, “You are a dear friend of Israel. We appreciate your strong stand on the world’s most important stage, in support of the security of the people and the State of Israel. With your support we see the beginning of a new era. Israel is no longer alone at the UN. Israel is no longer the UN’s punching bag.”

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The President thanked the Ambassador for her great contribution to the State of Israel, and said, “Ambassador Haley, as the representative the US - Israel’s greatest and strongest ally - we appreciate very much your support of Israel, and all you do to stand up for the values of freedom and democracy which we share. Welcome to Israel, welcome to Jerusalem.”

Ambassador Haley thanked the President for his warm welcome and said, “Thank you Mr. President for taking the time to meet with us, it is an absolute thrill to be here in Israel, I so much appreciate the support we have received from the people of Israel. But I feel somewhat guilty because all I did at the United Nations was tell the truth. I have never taken kindly to bullies, and the UN has bullied Israel for a very long time, and we are not going to let that happen anymore. It is a new day for Israel in the United Nations. We just got back from Geneva, talking about the Human Rights Council and hopefully it will be a new day at the Human Rights Council when it comes to Israel.”

She concluded by saying she was greatly looking forward to her visit to Israel and said, “I am looking forward to taking in the history, the beauty, the tradition, and all that comes with the magic of Israel. Thank you very much for having me it is a pleasure to be here.”

Photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)

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President Reuven and First Lady Nechama Rivlin today, (Monday), welcomed President of the United States Donald J. Trump, and First Lady Melania Trump on arrival at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and then at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.

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