On Tuesday, April 16 at 7:30 pm, the acclaimed Israeli Chamber Project returns to the Baruch Performing Arts Center with works including Mozart/Andre's Clarinet Quartet in E-Flat Major, Bartok's Contrasts, Brahms' Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60, and more. In this Insider Interview we spoke to ICP pianist Assaff Weisman about programming choices, performing at BPAC, and more.
Classical Music Communications - In an ensemble with a modular instrumentation, how do you go about choosing programs for individual concerts, tours, etc.?
Assaff Weisman - This is a pretty intricate ballet, as you might imagine, and requires balancing artistic and aesthetic goals with quite a bit of logistics. In each of our programs we try to weave together different works that have a common thread running through them, in a way that might reveal something about the program as a whole. Our three New York programs this season are good examples of this. We opened with a look at Debussy and his influence on French music in the years following his passing. Coming up this month is a program of homages, and we conclude the season with a tribute to several Jewish composers, each from a very different background. Our clarinetist and Artistic Director, Tibi Cziger, takes repertoire input from the members of the ensemble but he is ultimately responsible for programming decisions. The logistics challenges come into play when he have to consider which of our very busy musicians are available for any given program. This determines the instrumentation available, which is where things get complicated. Luckily, we built the ensemble with this kind of flexibility in mind, so have been able to make it work with some creative thinking.
CMC - What inspired you to choose the repertoire for this “Homages” tour?
AW - One of the recurring themes in our programming is the question of musical influence. What influences a composer's language or serves as inspiration - in a specific work, or in their overall style - is a fascinating topic that we have enjoyed exploring. This program of homages enables us to examine this question through the work of four composers with whom we feel a special bond. Each of these homages came to be through very different circumstances. Bartok's Contrasts pay homage to his native Hungary's folk music and to American jazz by way of the two musicians who commissioned the work - Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti and jazz great Benny Goodman. Brahms' C minor Piano Quartet, has its roots in both Beethoven and Goethe and can be seen as a personal letter to his the composer's unattainable muse, Clara Schumann. And there are equally interesting threads in the Mozart and Leef.
CMC - What is it about the Leef piece that attracts you to it?
AW - We have performed Yinam Leef’s Triptych several times over the years and think it's a fantastic piece! It evokes a Middle Eastern flavor, especially in the rhapsodic second movement, with its cantorial viola solos, but still retains a strong, clear structure, with all the instruments beautifully balanced. The three movements are quite varied in character, making for great contrast, but the whole work still feels as though cut from one cloth. The rather unusual instrumentation: string trio, piano, and clarinet fits our ensemble to a T.
CMC - What do you like about the Baruch Performing Arts Center and what does this venue mean to the ensemble?
AW - This will be our third season at BPAC, and we are feeling quite at home at Engelman Hall. From Director Ted Altschuler to the backstage crew, everyone does their part to put the music at the center and allow it to shine. We appreciate this so much, and it seems that the audience does, too! We are very much looking forward to being back on that stage.