HOLY BLOSSOM TEMPLE 150th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, June 17, 2007
Roy Thompson Hall, Toronto

Holy Blossom Temple hired Roy Thompson Hall, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Peter Oundjian to conduct a musical celebration of its 150th Anniversary.

The star of the show was Giora Feidman, clarinetist extraordinaire, who played solo, with the orchestra, and in a trio with TSO ‘s principal clarinet Joaquin Valdepenas, and principal bassist Jeffrey Beecher.

This trio performed the most interesting piece of the evening, “Love of Life” by Ora Bat Chaim. It is of interest that here life is celebrated in quiet, gentle tones. Feidman’s clarinet wheedles soft traditional melodies in a living tone; Valdepenas wails a sweet, lower register harmony, and Beecher pulses, arco and pizzicato, the syncopated rhythms of a walking bassline. Even the occasional upbeat ‘freilach’ passages were delicately etched.

Feidman’s virtuosic rendition of Astor Piazzolla’s “Two Tangos”, scored for solo clarinet and orchestral strings showed his own Argentinean roots as he softly piped the composer’s hot, dancing measures into the twittering web of insistent violins.

Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess Suite” received a jewsy-bluesy treatment, trademark gentle with the occasional raunchy growl, touched here and there with klezmer laughing clarinet and once, with a funny, spot on ‘shofar’ call.

Feidman initiated the liturgical side of the program with a solo walk through the audience to stage left playing barely audible low register tones that rise to a wheedling, tearful, entreaty. Ever the showman, Feidman got the audience humming a drone that he played against as he mounted the stage, switched to a bass clarinet, and performed with the orchestra the tender and sad, distant tones of Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidre.”

Following the Bruch, the Temple’s resident cantor, Benjamin Z. Maisnner, asked the audience to rise as a congregation to join him and the orchestra in singing a traditional prayer of thanksgiving. Ovations, embraces, and celebratory warmth filled the hall.

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