The Israel Camerata Jerusalem

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The Israel Camerata: Christmas Oratorio

Camerata instrumentalists delighting listeners throughout the evening
Pamela Hickman
Pamela Hickman's Concert Critique Blog

"The Israel Camerata Jerusalem’s (musical director Avner Biron) performance of four of the six cantatas of J.S.Bach’s (1685-1750) Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 (1734), the last of four different presentations of this work in Israel December 2009, was conducted by Tim Brown (UK). Soloists were soprano Ye’ela Avital, countertenor David Feldman, tenor Simon Wall and baritone Jonathan Sells. The Clare College Choir of Cambridge (musical director Tim Brown) sang the choruses. This writer attended the performance at the Henry Crown Symphony Hall of the Jerusalem Theatre December 29th 2009".

Maestro Tim Brown, conducting the Israel Camerata Jerusalem for the first time, has been the musical director of Clare College Cambridge since 1979. He is a much sought-after conductor in Britain and elsewhere, composes choral music, working with the Clare College Choir (until 2000 a men’s choir), today a mixed choir of fine young singers, an outstanding ensemble with a varied repertoire. Their singing of the choruses was fresh, exacting, fired with energy, well punctuated and articulate; Brown’s attention to text, dynamics, diction, language pronunciation and phrase-endings is reflected in the enthralling performance of this choir.

Israeli soprano Ye’ela Avital was expressive, her phrases shaped well. In the trio for soprano, tenor and alto with violin obbligato (soloist Arnold Kobiliansky) from Cantata no. 5, “Ah, when will that time appear then?” she tastefully weaves her line into and around the melodic strands of Wall and Feldman. This item was surely one of the high points of the performance, with Bach’s sophisticated contrapuntal layering ever amazing the mind and ear. Young Israeli countertenor David Feldman’s voice is filling out with a rich mix of colors. He is expressive, brings in some nice ornamentation and was clearly moved by the work..."

"British baritone Jonathan Sells (b.1982) ... This was his first appearance with the Israel Camerata Jerusalem. Sells’ vocal ease and rich and pleasing mix of color were matched by his convincing reading of the work and involvement throughout".

"Drawing the various threads of the oratorio text together, British tenor Simon Wall, in his role as the Evangelist, presented the narrative in all its detail (from the Gospel according to St. Luke and St. Matthew) to his audience with clarity, humility and conviction. His aria in Part Four “I would but for thine honour live now” was joyful and spiced with fine melismatic singing. Wall’s professional engagements include much work with top vocal groups, recitals and recordings".

"Bach’s Christmas Oratorio offers the orchestra, as well as solo players, many wonderful moments, with Camerata instrumentalists delighting listeners throughout the evening with the beauty of obbligato arias. Among the soloists was young trumpet player Gonny Eshed, whose brilliant performance added festive joy to the performance. Tim Brown juggled the fine balance of orchestra, choir and soloists splendidly, producing an inspiring and memorable performance".