Israeli Chamber Project Shines at Chamberfest

August 13, 2015 Updated: August 18, 2015

An electric atmosphere charged the pews of Dominion Chalmers United Church on the evening of Aug. 4 as three members of the award-winning Israeli Chamber Project began to play.

The downtown Ottawa church has been one of the venues for the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival for many years. The long-running event is one of the world’s premiere chamber music festivals.

Clarinetist Tibi Cziger, violinist Yehonatan Berick, and pianist Assaff Weisman, all Israeli-born, displayed a rare musical intelligence, passion, and virtuosity not often heard these days.

Founded in 2008, the Israeli Chamber Project brings together some of the most distinguished musicians in the world for chamber music concerts. The group has played at Carnegie Hall and was named the winner of the 2011 Israeli Ministry of Culture Outstanding Ensemble Award in recognition of “their passionate musicianship, creative programming, and commitment to educational outreach.” The group is based in New York and Tel Aviv.

According to Time Out New York, the Israeli Chamber Project “is the rarest of creatures: a band of world-class soloists that is not a muster of peacocks but a hive” in which “egos dissolve and players think, breathe, and play as one.” This was more than evident during the Ottawa concert in Schuman’s “Drei Fantasiestucke for Clarinet and Piano,” “Op. 73” and in “Contrasts” by Béla Bartok.

The program, a mix of Middle Eastern and Western music, also included “Trio For Clarinet, Violin and Piano” by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian, and “Sonata for Solo Violin in G Minor, Op. 44” by Munich-born Paul Ben-Haim, one of Israel’s most famous composers.

An array of subtle touches by these gifted musicians gave the audience a cornucopia of music well above the level of what is usual today.

Highlights of the Israeli Chamber Project’s 2015-2016 season include their first tour of China, a return to Carnegie Hall, and concerts at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. There will be three tours of Israel, where in January 2016 the ensemble will be joined by celebrated German violinist Antje Weithaas.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review, among others. Email: hallett_susan@hotmail.com