Bassoonist Eyal Streett grew up in Jerusalem. As a boy he attended the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s concerts for children. At one of those concerts his attention was drawn to a contrabassoon. At the following concert, he plucked up courage and approached the bassoonist, Richard Paley, to ask what this instrument was. Today, at age 30, Streett lives in Spain and performs with some of the finest Baroque ensembles in Europe as well as with his own trio, “Rubato Appassionato”.
Pamela: Eyal, when did you begin taking music lessons?
Eyal: As a child, I learned the recorder with Etti Schwarz. I was accepted to the Jerusalem Academy High School for junior high and chose bassoon as my instrument, studying with Richard Paley. I continued recorder studies with Sarig Sella till age 14. I played the bassoon in the school orchestra and also joined the Hebrew University Orchestra, which was and is till today, conducted by Anita Kamien. It was an amateur orchestra, but there I became familiar with much orchestral repertoire. I also played in an orchestra conducted by Yevgeny Tzirlin and Ronny Porat, traveling overseas to perform. I was fortunate in attending the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, where we performed together with some of the world’s greatest soloists, among them, YoYo Ma.
After my army service, I spent a year studying bassoon with Mordechai Rechtman, at the same time, playing in the Israel Chamber Orchestra. Rechtman, bassoonist in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, was a very demanding teacher; he taught me much about standards of excellence and about how to listen to one’s own playing.
Pamela: What inspired your interest in Baroque music?
Eyal: It was in our teens that a friend of mine played a Baroque recorder; I asked Richard Paley about playing an “authentic” bassoon. He lent me an instrument and I got the feel of it. At age 17, I traveled to Holland to purchase a Baroque bassoon from a very fine instrument builder.
I began attending the Jerusalem Early Music Workshop, where I made contacts with Baroque players and I made a point of going to concerts in the “Authentic Music” series in Jerusalem.
Pamela: Where did you continue your studies?
Eyal: Accepted at schools both in the Hague and in Milan, I was faced with the dilemma of which to choose. I chose to study at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, studying with the well-known American bassoonist Donna Agrell. Agrell invested a lot of energy in each of her students, appreciating the individual musical personality of each, and she was of great inspiration for me. The Royal Conservatory took a free approach to students, encouraging them to form their own ensembles. It was there that I met my wife – Spanish recorder player Antonia Tajeda. In the four years I spent there, I played much basso continuo. But it was not all early music; I developed an interest for electronic music there and took part in a contemporary ensemble. Two years into my studies in Holland, I began performing in several Baroque ensembles – under Rene Jacobs in Freiburg, in Paris and in “La Petite Bande” with Sigiswald Kujken in Belgium.
Pamela: Did you stay in Holland?
Eyal: No. We settled in Barcelona and I would travel to Milan to study with bassoonist Alberto Grazzi, spending a couple of days at a time in Milan, taking lessons with Grazzi and performing together with his other students. From Grazzi I understood the fact that a musician has the right to choose in his or her art, one of the most important lessons I have learned.
I completed my studies in 2003 and began playing with “Nachtmusique”, a woodwind ensemble directed by Eric Hoeprich, himself a performer on historical clarinets. Three or four years ago I joined Alfredo Bernadini and the Grazzi brothers in “Ensemble Zefiro”, a group based in Italy that performs a lot of wind chamber music.
In the meantime, we have moved to Seville. I have a few pupils but my time is mainly spent performing in groups around Europe Have performed in North America, and China, but most of our work is in Europe.
Pamela: Would you like to tell us about “Rubato Appassionato”?
Eyal: Yes. We are three players – my wife Antonia on Baroque recorders, Sasha Agranov on Baroque ‘cello and I play Baroque bassoon. Sasha is a friend of mine who was born in Russia and grew up in Israel. The trio began playing when we were in Holland. We had been playing in a larger ensemble but were interested to see what we could do in a group without harmonic instruments. We knew there had been ensembles such as ours in the Baroque period and the combination works well. We have played a lot of English music with grounds (bassi ostinati) but the program we have brought here is one of 18th century Spanish dance music, dances we found in old manuscripts. We create variations to them, combining our fantasy with the aesthetics of the period. Thus it is music for the concert hall and not for a royal court! We are playing three concerts on this trip to Israel. I am here also to attend a concert in memory of my sister, Tova, who died four years ago.
Pamela: What are your future plans?
Eyal: I hope to continue my work with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, with “Les Talens Lyriques” in Paris ( a Baroque orchestra founded in 1999 by French conductor and harpsichordist Christophe Rousset), to take part in the Salzburg Festival and more. “Rubato Appassionato” will be doing recordings and performing eight concerts in Andalusia in the coming Autumn.
Pamela: Eyal, thank you for giving us of your time. We at “Living in Harmony” wish you much joy and success in your career.