There were two highlights to last week and both of them were musical. Last Wednesday, I went to the first of two concerts of the Israel Chamber Orchestra in which the Georgian pianist, Eliso Virsaladze, performed all five of Beethoven’s piano concerti on the same evening. I went to the first concert at 18.00 hrs and heard the second, fourth and third concertos; then, an hour after that concert concluded, at 21.00, she performed the first and the fifth (The Emperor).
Irrespective of whatever one might have felt about her interpretations of what Beethoven had composed, simply the sheer audacity of performing all of these masterpieces in the space of four and a half hours was mind-boggling. Yes, I know that she has probably performed each of these pieces hundreds of times but just the energy needed to sit at the piano and perform them from memory is nothing short of phenomenal. Yes, I have heard András Schiff perform Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier in a single evening and Yo-Yo Ma do the same with Bach’s six cello suites but somehow performing with an orchestra is something extra. Given that the lady is almost 77 years old, she radiated more than enough energy to keep the orchestra players, most of whom are about half her age, on their toes and on top form.
I had forgotten that two years ago she had been a member of the jury of the Arthur Rubinstein Piano Competition in Tel Aviv and that I must have photographed her then — so when I extracted the archive, there she was, centre stage standing directly behind the 90-something year old Menachem Pressler and Lady Annabel Weidenfeld.
That event was on the Wednesday night at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and came compliments of Shuli who leads the viola section of the orchestra. The following night at the Tel Aviv Opera House was something different entirely—a performance by the Revolution Orchestra in which Tami is a member of the cello section. The Revolution Orchestra is an exciting and young musical organization creating a series of unique performance concerts in the Opera House. In this concert, entitled RE:PLAY II, they took us on a journey of music and video art in the footsteps of the musical legends who inspired them, bringing back to life on the stage some favourite deceased artists to play with the orchestra, their reincarnation occurring through video projections with the orchestra providing music, all coming to life in a musico-visual multi-sensory experience lasting about 90 minutes.
So it was that last Thursday night, Jacqueline du Pré was paired with Jimi Hendrix, Édith Piaf with Astor Piazzolla, Marvin Gaye performed with Yehudi Menuhin, John Lennon and Glenn Gould formed a wonderful musical collaboration, Billie Holliday partnered Amy Winehouse and finally, as the climax of the evening, there was a “competition of kings” between Luciano Pavarotti and Freddie Mercury. (Guess who won the audience prize in that contest!)
Even if it was not one of those cultural experiences that leaves you on a very high high, there was certainly a feeling that you had experienced something entirely different and quite unique. And the performance even produced an curtain call—a live performance conducted by Danny Kaye in which the audience only saw Kaye as the conductor as he faced the Revolution Orchestra which turned around, with their backs to the live audience, and played for him—replete with the [very] out of tune trumpet.
And after this brace of cultural highlights, its was back to recording the geography of the mundane in the streets of North Tel Aviv.
There is—or there was—a municipal car park in the neighbourhood on a street named after one, Gedalia Bublick, a Yiddish writer and Zionist activist from the first half on the 20th century. When we came to Tel Aviv 13 years ago and went to view the flat we eventually purchased and have lived in since, we were told that we could park the car in the Bublick car park, which we misinterpreted as the “public car park”, and so Bublick remained public for 13 years. And then, a fortnight or so ago Tel Aviv Municipality announced that the Bublick car park would be no longer a public car park and that the space would acquire an alternative use, with kindergartens and play schools to be erected to cater to the increasing youthfulness of the neighbourhood. Construction, they announced, would start in August. However, with some abnormal efficaciousness, the authorities decided to get started straight away and the area was fenced off last week—much to the bewilderment and perplexity, I should imagine, of some people who left their cars there while taking a short break abroad and who will find on their return that there is no uncomplicated way of releasing their forlorn automobiles.
Now in a city like Tel Aviv where, on average, cars have more bumps and scratches than in many other cities due to the absolute premium on parking spaces and the couldn’t care less attitude of many drivers, this new construction not only means a reduction of about 80 or so parking spaces in the neighbourhood but also the addition of tens if not hundreds of automobiles in the mornings and afternoons as parents, grandparents, childminders and other handlers drop off and pick up their darling little charges in an area that already comes to a near standstill for that very reason as there is already a primary school opposite the car park, which makes getting out of the neighbourhood at peak hours almost impossible.
And while on the subject of cars and car parks, Gal and Michal have decided to rent out their parking space on Yeshayahu Street for a year (a parking space with a gate, mind you) on contract for the princely sum of NIS850 (about $240 or £190) a month! And I suppose they’ll be piling up at the gate at such a bargain price for something that is almost impossible to come by in this area.
And on the subject of parking space, some morally principled person decided to signal (via the windscreen wipers) to all those drivers who had parked their vehicles in what s/he had decided was an unfriendly manner (i.e., had they moved their car another meter forward, they might have left space for another driver to fit his/her car into a space that was currently too short to fit anything other than a Smart car parked sideways—of which there actually are several).
And while still on the subject of parking, I took a few minutes to observe the a ritual on Nordau Boulevard before 08.00 the other morning, one that occurs the world over on a regular basis. First off, the traffic warden slaps a parking ticket on the grey Mazda — 250 shekels down the drain (i.e., into the Municipality’s coffers). Then he makes contact with the tow truck that proudly displays the logo of Tel Aviv Municipality. The truck driver positions the crane to just above the offending car and then exits the vehicle and affixes straps to each of the four wheels and presses the button that hoists the car above the surface of the road. The car wobbles a bit and I think that this is going to be one of my lucky days as I capture municipality employees damaging a[n albeit illegally parked] private vehicle. But no such luck as the driver attaches larger and robuster thongs and up it goes to be driven off to its temporary resting place where it will eventually be located by its rightful owner who will then be asked to make a further contribution to Tel Aviv Municipality’s account.
It all reminded me of an incident in London many years ago of when I went to the theatre with my late sister-in-law and she parked the car on Charing Cross Road close to the theatre in a spot in which parking was prohibited although she said that because it was evening, nobody would do anything about it. On exiting the theatre—no car—the outcome of that being a taxi ride to the underground car park at Marble Arch where a police computer located the car in a pound near King’s Cross Station. So another taxi to the floodlit car pound where a surreal scene presented itself in which people almost came to blows as they battled for the right to part with £75 to release their car that evening rather than have to return the following day—and then probably to be charged an extra fee for overnight parking!
A little further up Nordau Boulevard I watched a woman demonstrate the advantages of hands-free mobile phones and she was able to talk freely and use hand gestures to the full, gestures that I’m pretty sure her interlocutor was unable to see.
And not far away a street library was parked, one of several dotted around the city, from which people are encouraged to borrow books, read them and return them. One morning last week, I encountered a woman who had decided to make alternative use of the library by reading to her children there and then on the spot as they sat there fascinated.
A balcony on Jabotinsky Street yielded what looked like the remnants of a bizarre party that had recently come to an end, leaving the participants frozen in various shades of ecstasy.
And as I’ve mentioned before, travelling by bus as often as not can provide us with interesting pictures. Last week was particularly hot and humid (not in the bus, which was like sitting inside a mobile refrigerator) and this couple of tourists got on. To say that they were suffering from the heat and humidity might be something of an exaggeration as she didn’t seem to be but he definitely was. And not surprising, too, as in addition to lugging what looked like a solid and rather weighty suitcase, he had quite a bulky and equally weighty rucksack on his back as well as a loaded camera bag on his front and even occupying two seats, he seemed to be quite uncomfortable.
The Yarqon Park afforded its usual complement of images:
The lady was busy exercising but the two dogs found it all a trifle tedious — and rubbish is rubbish whatever way you look at it!
And then there were some images that I edited a little at home.
And then, on one more visit to Nordau Boulevard, I noticed that I couldn’t recollect ever having seen a bench in Tel Aviv commemorating a person who had died even though such things are commonplace in the places I walk in London. As I passed this one, I read the caption as if it had been written in English and said “Poor Claire” — and then I realized it was actually in French and should have been read as: “For Claire”. But it really was Poor Claire who used to sit and smoke on the bench. Didn’t anybody ever warn her of the dangers of smoking (or of fuming)? Poor Claire, indeed!