Monday, October 19, 2009

Michal Dworzynski conductor

Polish-born conductor Michal Dworzynski was in Israel to conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in the gala opening concert of the 2009 Israel Festival on Sunday May 24th in the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre. This event, closing the “Polish Year in Israel”, included works by two Polish composers - Henryk Gorecki (b.1933) and Frederic Chopin. Of the three soloists, soprano Iwona Hossa and pianist Jacek Kortus were from Poland; they were joined by Israeli pianist Dorel Golan. I had the pleasure of talking to Maestro Dworzynski on May 21st.

Pamela: Maestro Dworzynski, when did you begin learning music?

Michal Dworzynski: When I started school at age 6, I wanted to learn the piano but my father, an orchestral bassoonist, was against it, insisting that a pianist’s life was too difficult. So I took up the violin, which I studied for twelve years. But I was interested to conduct and started to teach myself the art of conducting at age twelve, watching conductors at concerts and on video films. I later graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin Music Academy, studying conducting there with Antoni Wit and took graduate studies with Christian Ehwald at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin.

Pamela: So here you are in Israel to conduct the IPO. Is this your first meeting with the orchestra?

M.D.: Yes. This is my debut with the IPO. Of course, I have heard recordings of the IPO and then I was present at their concert in Warsaw where they played under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta. I have always known it was a top class orchestra and now I have first-hand experience of the fact. Each player is a fine musician. Every orchestra has its signature sound: the IPO’s sound has a velvety, blended quality; the musicians play as “one group”. They are also friendly people.

Pamela: This is going to be a very interesting program. Would you like to say a few words about Gorecki’s Symphony no. 3, the “Symphony of Sad Songs” ?

M.D. Yes. Composed in 1976, it uses different Polish texts for each of the movements. Here, they will be sung by Iwona Hossa, with whom I have worked before. The work is very beautiful, it is almost an hour long and has three slow movements. The score itself does not appear to be difficult; indeed, the problems in it are not technical problems. The essence of the work is in its deep sadness, its sense of hopelessness. In the second movement, for example, the text is a message scratched into the wall of a Gestapo cell during World War II. It is the first time the IPO will be performing the symphony and, after two days of rehearsals with them, I am enjoying the fact that the players are getting a good and authentic feel for the work.

Pamela: There are two Chopin works on the program.

M.D. Yes. The Variations on “La ci darem la mano” in B flat major from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” constitute one of Chopin’s first works for piano and orchestra. Here we have a very young Chopin, sometimes a little na├»ve; however, in some of the variations, his genius shines through. Some might say the orchestral score is “not very interesting”; the truth is that it needs thorough reading into to find the small musical gestures lying there and the IPO players are certainly doing that.

Chopin’s Concerto no. 1 in E minor for Piano and Orchestra is also quite an early work, written around the time the composer was 19 years old, still in Warsaw. Chopin had just fallen in love and was inspired to compose. So it is a very romantic work, the slow movement in particular, with young emotion running throughout the concerto.

Pamela: Maestro Dworzynski, we welcome you to Israel and wish you much joy and satisfaction working with the IPO on this interesting project. Thank you for sparing the time to talk to us.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Konstantin Keytlin - clarinetist and saxophonist

On July 2nd 2009 I had the pleasure of interviewing clarinetist Konstantin Keytlin. Keytlin was born in Dnepropetrovsk in the Ukraine and immigrated to Israel in 1998.

PH: What were your earliest musical experiences?

KK: I would say I was “born in the opera”. My mother is a choral conductor and my father sang in the Dnepropetrovsk Opera; so I spent much of my childhood behind the scenes. I grew up going to a lot of opera and ballet performances. Actually, at the age of five, I had a small part in Moussorgsky’s “Boris Gudunov”, playing the child who steals money from a beggar. At home, we heard records of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Robertino Loretti; and my grandmother sang Yiddish songs.

PH: You certainly were exposed to many kinds of music! And when did you actually start taking lessons?

KK: At age eight I started studying the clarinet with Arkady Gurfinkel. It was my parents’ decision I should play the clarinet. Gurfinkel was the best teacher in the city and I feel lucky to have studied with him. Many of his pupils have won prizes for performance. When I was 14, Gurfinkel immigrated to Israel and I continued my studies with a student of his. At age 15 I began playing in the orchestra of the Dnepropetrovsk Opera.

PH: How did your studies continue?

KK: On finishing secondary school, I was accepted to the Donetsk State Music Academy in the Ukraine. In my first year of studies, I gave several recitals and joined the Donetsk Opera orchestra. During my second year there, I took third prize in the Rovno Competition. My mind was set on studying at the National Music Academy of Kiev and I applied to the school but they did not accept Jews there. That is when I made plans to leave for Israel.

PH: So you came to Israel in 1998.

KK: Yes. I made my home in Jerusalem and continued my studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance for another two years, studying clarinet with Professor Ilan Schul. I won an outstanding musician’s award in the Israeli Absorption Ministry’s competition for immigrant musicians and a Sharett Scholarship from the America-Israel Cultural Fund Grant for Young Artists. I then began auditioning with orchestras here and now freelance, playing with the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra, the Holon Orchestra and Mordechai Sobol’s Cantorial Orchestra.

PH: You are considered a versatile musician. Can you mention some of your other activities?

KK: Yes. Singing comes naturally to me after having heard much vocal music in my childhood and having taken part in opera chorus rehearsals. I am a member of the Musica Aeterna Choir, which was founded by its conductor Ilya Plotkin in 1996. I also sing in the Tel Aviv Philharmonic Choir and in the choir of the Great Synagogue (Heichal Shlomo) here in Jerusalem. I have conducted a children’s choir in Israel.

A few years ago, I joined the “Apropos.Art” klezmer-jazz group – violin, trumpet, keyboards, bass, percussion and clarinet. We perform at festivals of Jewish music here in Israel and we have played in Holland, Poland and Germany.

I tune pianos, play the saxophone and teach clarinet, saxophone, piano and organ.

PH: How do you see yourself as an artist?

KK: I feel I communicate with my audience, be it one person or a packed concert hall. In my ten or so years here, I have performed in symphony concerts, in the synagogue, in operas, operettas, evenings of Yiddish songs and concerts of old songs of concerts under the auspices of the Absorption Ministry. And I love Yiddish songs; that is my grandmother’s legacy!

PH: How would you like to see your future?

KK: I would like to have a permanent position in an orchestra, to become as professional as possible in all the styles I play and to give my children the musical background my father was able to give me. I teach my 10-year-old son the clarinet and he plays it in ceremonies at school.

Within myself, I am looking to find a synthesis of the various styles of music with which I have grown up, to combine them with Israeli music and perhaps come up with something new. My future is in Jerusalem. I love its unique atmosphere and climate. This is my home.

PP: Konstantin, many thanks. I wish you much joy and satisfaction in your rich musical life.

Konstantin’s email address: