Varda sings CD Ben Haim
Review from : CD Compact Disc Spain
Cristics Estract by Victor Blades

Ben Haim
Paul Ben Haim is a name that Paul Frankenburger (1887-1984) adopted for himself as he settled in British Palestine in 1933, after fleeing the Nazi regime, that was gradually gaining power in Germany at that time. In this manner, not only that he rescued his own life, but he was able to continue his musical work up until 1977. Peculiarly, the only accident, which almost caused his death, took place in the city of Munich in 1972, the city in which he was born and to which he was invited by the local municipality towards his 75th birthday. After receiving an honorary decoration, Ben Haim was run over by a car and remained disabled, using a wheelchair in consequence thereof until his last day.

The current recital presents a collection of German and Hebrew lied, stretched over a long period, from 1915 until 1977. The initial works originate in compositions made by Hugo Von Hofmansthal (1915) and by Christian Morgenstern (1920). The late romanticism of these works led the way to a stylish purification, which is a result of reading Japanese literature by the composer, translated by Hans Bethge. The three lieds of Bethge includes influences of Mahler and his lied to earth (Lied von der Erde) likewise the works of Strauss, Schönberg and Webern. The vocal accompanying is enriched by a piano, a cello and a violin. The contrast between the high voice of the soprano singer and the low tons of the cello reflects the idea of the influences mentioned above, while maintaining a tonal framework. The essential crisis caused by the government of the Nazi regime during his life, taking away his brilliant status as the Head of the Opera of the City of Augsburg and chief assistant of Bruno Walter in Munich to the desolation that awaited him in Tel Aviv, in which he was merely yet another immigrant, brought him not only to change his name, but also to turn his back to his European work. His new life in Palestine under the British regime caused him to unconsciously withdraw away from his central European musical toward learning the Jewish musical tradition, while succeeding in creating a new musical field: the Jewish lied, after learning the language and researching the modern poetry in the Hebrew language, a language which he was compelled to learn from the start, because for many central European Jews, the only contact with this language was narrowed to a mechanical reciting of prayers in synagogue.

Ben Haim did not hesitate to compose tunes for the biblical Song of Songs. The previous romanticism of the German lieds gave room for a writing, which very much brings to mind the composer Debussy, in composition with an irregular changing matrix. The connection between Ben Haim and the Yemenite origin singer, Bracha Tsfira, lead to the composition of themes that were founded on the additional Jewish tradition from the European source: the Spanish, based upon the language of the Ladino, which is merely the Spanish language as it spoken in 1492, the year of deportation of the Jews from Spain, then ruled by a Christian religious king. The Spanish influence is revealed in the vocal chapters of "Relaxation", a work that was composed in 1939, likewise other works based upon medieval Jewish lyrics, in which Halevi is similar to Ravel, Debussy and even Mahler. The recital offers a musical experience consisting of cello, a work that was composed in 1952, which is played in concert halls starting from 1970.

The voice of the soprano singer, Varda Kotler, is an instrument of luxury, for it is gifted with a sensual tone which is flexible delicate and soft, allowing to present various musical scales of the lied in comparison with European kinds of the German period and up to oriental influence from the Israeli period of the composer. Musically talented and pure, Kotler presents a commendable bridge between these two different cultures, which are interconnected by virtue of the fertile integration and studying of Ben Haim. Jeff Cohen plays the piano, Philip Barry plays the cello and Alexis Galpérine plays the violin accompanying the soprano with a demonstration of great accuracy. The warm tone of the players contributes to the enjoyment of this recital, which draws away from more common repertoire, broadening the musical horizons of the listeners.


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