Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boaz Berney plays early flutes and also builds them

Jerusalem-born Boaz Berney teaches and plays Baroque- and Renaissance flutes; he also builds these flutes and Romantic flutes. On February 4 2009, I telephoned Boaz in his Jaffa studio.

Pamela: Boaz, when did you begin taking an interest in music?

Boaz: I grew up in Ra’anana and began learning the recorder at age seven. I then changed to the flute when I was eight or nine, studying with Michael Weintraub. During my compulsory army service, I attended the Early Music Workshop in Jerusalem and there I made my acquaintance with historical instruments and early performance practice, and, as a result, spent the next three or four years studying Baroque flute with Idit Shemer.

Pamela: Would you like to talk about the time you spent in Holland?

Boaz: Yes. I was in Holland for ten years. I studied traverso (Baroque flute) under Wilbert Hazelzet at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, becoming more familiar with Renaissance music and that of other periods. It is important for players to study music written before the Baroque. But I had also set my sights on instrument-making. At the Utrecht Early Music Festival, which attracts a variety of instrument-makers, I looked for a maker with whom I could study and I became apprenticed to recorder-maker Peter van der Poel. With him I learned all the basics about how to work with wood and the art of copying historical instruments; a year later, I began working at home. From 1995 to 1998, I worked at the Gemeente Museum in the Hague, compiling a catalogue of the Baroque flutes in their collection as well as doing conservation work on woodwind instruments there. Examining so many original instruments taught me a lot about the craftsmanship of early instrument makers. I was able to compare flutes I was building with those in the museum.

During 2000 and 2001, I researched Romantic flutes, focusing on those in the Vienna workshop of Stephan Koch (fl. 1807-1828), putting them in chronological order and studying their specific timbre and characteristics.

I was also performing in two ensembles I had formed – one was a wind quintet performing Classical music on historical instruments. The other, the Modena Consort – an ensemble focusing on Renaissance polyphonic music, consisting of a singer, four flutes and two lutes – still exists and we perform in concerts and festivals in Europe; see http://www.modenaconsort.com .

Pamela: When did you return to Israel?

Boaz: I came back to Israel in 2005. Two years later, I began playing in the newly-formed Barrocade Ensemble, with which I continue to be very involved. Many of the players in the Barrocade Ensemble are people, like myself, who have spent years in Europe and have returned to Israel. I am also a member of the Discantvs Ensemble, comprising of Kimberly Reine, Genevieve Blanchard and myself on Renaissance flutes, Eitan Hoffer (lute and Baroque guitar) and countertenor Doron Schleifer. The flutes played in the group were built by me.

Much of my time is spent building flutes in my workshop in an old Ottoman-style house in the inspiring town of Jaffa. Some of my clients are Israelis but most of the orders come from overseas. I frequently travel to exhibitions of historical instruments in London, Vienna, Boston, Berlin and Utrecht, where I show my flutes and take orders from players. I buy the wood in Europe and Turkey and find it important to travel there to choose each and every piece myself. Most of these instruments are made from Boxwood. The Boxwood tree grows very slowly and its wood varies. My expertise is in building Renaissance flutes but I also like making Baroque- and Romantic flutes.

Pamela: Do you teach flute?

Boaz: Yes. I have three or four adult students studying traverso with me.

Pamela: What are your thoughts on the Israeli concert audience?

Boaz: My experience performing with Barrocade and Discantvs here is positive. Till now, there have been no consorts of Renaissance flutes in this country; this kind of ensemble is new to the Israeli concert scene. The local concert public shows an interest in new groups, is curious to hear repertoire not previously heard here and is warm and communicative.

Pamela: Boaz, it has been most interesting talking to you. Concert-goers will enjoy hearing your fine performance on early flutes in Israeli concert halls and there will be plenty of opportunities to hear you and your fellow Early Music players and singers this concert season.

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