ARC Ensemble is thrilled to present EXIT: MUSIC, a documentary directed by James Murdoch that examines the impact of National Socialism on the lives of five composers. As a taste, we are sharing the trailer. This revealing and captivating film will be released in the Spring of 2016.
Chamberworks by Paul Ben-Haim reviewed on FonoForum
GISELHER SCHUBERT, FONOFORUM
Paul Ben-Haim, who was born Paul Frankenburger in Munich in 1897, emigrated to Israel in 1933 and died in Tel Aviv in 1984, was one of Israel’s most prolific and influential composers and composition teachers. Trained at Munich's Academy of Music, his musical beginnings belong to a late Romantic category of Brahmsian provenance.
The noteworthy piano quartet op. 4 (1921) harks back to these beginnings; following a performance in 1932, it was only heard again in 2012 thanks to the ARC Ensemble's absolutely immaculate recording. Ben-Haim's methodical, consistent and original expansion of Brahms' idiom, and his simultaneous attempt to leave it behind by integrating as many different types of music as possible into the context of traditional forms, is astonishing. In this way, the music of this piano quartet seems to develop while also leaving an imaginary musical centre, but without shattering or breaking up into disconnected parts. Admittedly, the piece is held together by the intense musical conviction of Canada's ARC ensemble, which mainly plays music by suppressed or politically persecuted composers. Their exemplary commitment is all the more convincing given that the musicians prove to be excellent and stylistically confident soloists who maintain a balance between the accuracy that chamber music requires and the more expansive momentum of a concert.
Also recorded is Ben-Haim's “Improvisation and Dance” op. 30, composed for Zino Francescatti, who also popularized this delightful work. With music such as this, composed by Ben-Haim in Israel, his creative ideas rise to a new level. Hebrew music is among the musical styles he now takes up, which is unobtrusively amalgamated into his compositions.
Ben-Haim’s clarinet quintet op. 31a, is certainly one of his major works; it still recalls Brahms, but its tone is now completely Hebraic, investing the music with a very special atmosphere of melancholy and sad restraint, which in this exquisite recording by the ARC Ensemble – clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas deserves special praise – appears like a cloudy November day. The work deserves to be included in the general repertoire and provides a welcome alternative to the clarinet quintets of Mozart and Brahms.
As the ARC Ensemble moves into its 10th anniversary season, we have begun to look back at our archives. Among our past series are two concerts of English music composed between the wars which we presented under the title "A Green and Pleasant Land." These performances, which included poetry of the period read by R.H. Thompson, were broadcast by CBC Radio 2, and later packaged for NPR affiliates with introductions by the ARC Ensemble's Artistic Director, SImon Wynberg.
"...expertly played by members of the eight-strong ARC Ensemble." – Fionna Maddocks, The Guardian July 21, 2013
"The recording is finely balanced, matching these committed and illuminating performances." – Edward Bhesania, The Strad August 28, 2013
"The ARC Ensemble arrived from Canada to offer rare repertory at Wigmore Hall [and] gave a beautifully performed programme of chamber works by Jewish composers undermined by Nazism: a ﬂuent Clarinet Sonata by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, a vigorous Piano Quintet on Polish tunes by Szymon Laks, Paul Ben-Haim's big-boned, late-Romantic Piano Quartet in C minor, and, most memorable, an unﬁnished D minor violin sonata movement by the teenage Mendelssohn (Hider had it in for him, too), completed by the pianist David Louie, who played it with Benjamin Bowman. The composer's magical ﬂeetness was in evidence, and other inspirations besides!" – Paul Driver, The Sunday Times (London) March 17, 2013
"Weinberg, a friend and follower of Shostakovich, died in partial obscurity in 1996, but his music is undergoing something of a revival… As a point of departure, I would recommend a superb disc of Weinberg's Clarinet Sonata, "Jewish Songs" and Piano Quintet, with members of the Arc Ensemble." – Alex Ross, The New Yorker Blog, August 29, 2011