Marina Minkin

Harpsichord Music By Israeli Composers

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The title Harpsichord Music by Israeli Composers seems to promise only music for highly specialized audiences, but much of the music here turns out to be intriguing for anybody and even of intense interest for composers and observers pursuing the question of how to enrich local roots with contemporary techniques. There are eight works on the disc, all by different composers of the last third of the twentieth century or the beginning of the present one; several have multiple movements, so most of the individual chunks of music are quite short. Most of the composers take the Baroque suite as a starting point but develop it in some unusual ways -- the influence of improvisation, brought to Israeli composers through the proximity of Arabic classical styles, is present both in hints of actual Middle Eastern music and in an orientation toward jazz and blues. The opening Improvisation on a Persian Song of Haim Alexander sets the mood with a mixture of these elements. Most of the music is for harpsichord solo, but Benjamin Bar-Am's very concise Petite Suite for Recorder and Harpsichord and the concluding Sonata a tre for mandolin, guitar, and harpsichord of Paul Ben-Haim add other instruments. Ben-Haim's piece, composed in 1968 but not brought to the world's attention until three decades later, is the most successful of the bunch and even has the sound of a lost masterpiece, especially in its opening movement: the sonic relationships among the three instruments are handled with maximum subtlety throughout, and the opening Allegro aquento somehow simultaneously manages to evoke Arab music and Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. Israeli harpsichordist Marina Minkin is alert to both the nationalist core of these works and to the various influences each indvidual composer has sought out. An unexpectedly delightful find.

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