In Jerusalem, an Ideal Audience for Chamber Music

Oct. 11 2016

Visiting Palestine in 1936, the famed conductor Arturo Toscanini commented that “even the peasants here know music.” (The peasants in question were in fact German doctors- and lawyers-turned-kibbutzniks.) Reviewing September’s Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Norman Lebrecht argues that Israel can still provide “what every musician seeks most, namely a public that is as passionate and knowledgeable as himself.”

The first thing [performers at the festival] encounter is silence. In four days of concerts, twice a day, I did not hear a single cough. “The best concentration anywhere,” says Elena Bashkirova, the festival’s artistic director. Programs are unyieldingly highbrow. Concerts contain at least five major works and last two-and-a- half hours. There are no encores. The public leaves the premises deep in thought. “The quality of the public is unique,” says Bashkirova. “If I put on something difficult, . . . they don’t complain. On the contrary, people come to me and say, ‘Please keep doing this, we want to learn.’” . . .

Bashkirova thinks her ideal audience arises from a particular Jerusalem tension which drives the rest of the world to distraction. She may well be right. But I can’t help blaming a music industry that reduced the art to ubiquity. We are never more than an arm’s length away from a masterpiece, on record or online. We are never more than a short flight away from any piece we might wish to hear. Music has lost value. We have forgotten the effort that it requires, as performer and listener. I found it again in Jerusalem.

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Read more at Standpoint

More about: Arts & Culture, Classical music, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform