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The Apollo Ensemble performs Jewish musical gems

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

Pro Musica Hebraica welcomes back the Apollo Ensemble for an evening of rare Jewish classical music from Amsterdam's Ets-Chaim Library. Since their highly praised American debut in 2009, the musicians have been in great demand internationally for their performances of Jewish baroque music on period instruments. As required, the ensemble can expand from the core chamber group to a full orchestra. Violinist David Rabinovich, a member of both TAE and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, talked about the discovery of several works in the library and their reconstruction by Ton Koopman, founder of the ABO.

"We look forward to playing at the Kennedy Center again," he said. "It's an amazing venue and the response of the audience was wonderful. They loved several works we played at that time by the Italian composer [Salamon] Rossi, so we will play two sonatas that he wrote for the court about 1622, possibly for a wedding ceremony. They are performed by two violins, cello and harpsichord, a very popular combination at that time. He was one of the founders of the baroque genre and his work is a transition between the late Italian Renaissance and early baroque. Although he was Jewish, he changed his name, as many did at that time."

Because Amsterdam was the center of Jewish life from the 17th to 19th centuries, the Ets-Chaim Library located in the center of the city in front of the opera house is an excellent repository for age-old documents. Rabinovich and the other members of TAE utilized access to the library and made a very successful recording of complete scores found there. Upon locating a box of music several years ago with some incomplete and unpublished scores, they asked Koopman, a leading scholar, to reconstruct three previously unknown discovered works. They are "Le-el Nora" by Mani, "Boi b'Shalom" by Cristiano Giuseppe Lidarti and "Kol Haneshama/Halleluya" by an anonymous composer. They are performed by a soprano, the first two with two violins and cello, and the third by soprano and cello.

"Mani was an enigmatic figure who was active in the last quarter of the 18th century," said Rabinovich. "His 'Le-el Nora' is the celebration of a Jewish feast before New Year's Day following the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah before it is started again. We are bringing a wonderful singer to perform several of these works with our ensemble, which includes on this occasion two violins, a cello, a bassoon and a big lute. The harpsichord will be available for us in Washington.

Onstage
The Apollo Ensemble
» Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW
» When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
» Info: $38; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324; kennedy-center.org; promusicahebraica.org

"Lidarti was not Jewish, but he had a close relationship with the Jewish community and was one of the biggest contributors to Jewish literacy. He was born two decades before the death of Handel, whose "Triosonate Op. 2, No. 5" we will perform. Handel's oratorio 'Esther' was so deeply loved by the synagogue that they asked Lidarti to translate it into Jewish. Much of his music had an operatic inclination."

In addition to Rossi and Lidarti, the program features works by three other Italian composers with Jewish connections: Marco Uccellini, Giacobbe Cervetto and Benedetto Marcello.

"We love what we do because it's exciting to resurrect music from oblivion," said Rabinovich. "Now that we have a link with the names and facts about the composers from books, we know that they are flesh and blood. Music is a dialogue, a human relationship. It doesn't matter when it was written -- as you play, time is stopped."

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