The Jerusalem Music Center identifies and nurtures local musicians and launches world-class careers.
That legendary classical pianist Evgeny Kissin has chosen to launch his 2011 worldwide tour with a recital in Jerusalem is exciting, but not surprising. After all, it was the internationally-acclaimed Jerusalem Music Center (JMC) – which regularly hosts luminaries of the musical world – that invited him to Israel, to kick off his new tour marking Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday.
Kissin is scheduled to play a solo recital at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on January 8. His tour also includes stops at La Scala, Concertgebouw and Carnegie Hall.
“Kissin is one of the top pianists in the world,” says Hed Sella, executive director of the JMC. “Of course, it’s a statement that he’s playing the first concert here. I hope it reaffirms that Jerusalem is very much on the world cultural map.”
Indeed, the sounds of music floating through the air in the picturesque Mishkenot She’ananim neighborhood of the capital city, where the JMC is situated, are encouraging. Inspired by the vision of violin virtuoso Isaac Stern, the JMC was founded in 1973 as an advanced training center for music education, dedicated to encouraging and developing Israel’s young musicians.
Maestro Murray Perahia – who ranks amongst the world’s favorite pianists – took the helm as president of the JMC in 2009. “To be led by one of the world’s greatest musicians is something that gives hope and a lot of possibility,” says Sella, a former member of the National Council of Culture and Art.
Not interested in the wunderkind
Today, the JMC is one of the most highly regarded musical institutions in Israel. “I think for a small country, say half of London or half of New York… we have a lot to be proud of,” adds Sella in a telephone interview with ISRAEL21c.
Sella stresses that the institution’s major goal is to “find, follow and foster brilliant young musicians from across the country, to offer them special workshops and to perfect their skills.”
Kissin and the JMC decided that proceeds from the Jewish Russian pianist’s solo recital will help to fund a new program at the center to provide training to develop outstanding young pianists.
Though located in Jerusalem, the JMC attracts young musicians from across the country. There is no one demographic that describes the students. “We have talents from neighborhoods where you wouldn’t even expect them to know what a violin is,” says Sella. When asked about prodigies, he dismisses the notion, saying, “we’re not interested in the wunderkind who can play very fast at a young age. We’re interested in talented and clever youth who we try to help to become all-around musicians.”
A quick Google search on graduates of the JMC makes it clear that that the center is doing something very right. At the moment, three prestigious ensembles – all formed at the JMC when the players were still teenagers- are circling the globe, wowing international audiences.
“Superlatives are inadequate in describing just how fine this playing was from one of the young, yet great quartets of our time,” is how Strad Magazine describes the Jerusalem String Quartet. Similarly the Ariel String Quartet has reaped praise, with the following appearing in the American Record Guide: “The evening opened with the competition’s jaw-dropping group, the Ariel Quartet… played with a concentration and intensity not found elsewhere. Here were four players, each a consummate master, who captured all the ‘old world’ qualities.”
Graduates return to advance students
And the Jerusalem String Trio had this published about them in the Canberra Times in Australia: “This was chamber music playing of the highest caliber. The trio is one of the finest heard in this country in many years.”
Members of these ensembles all make a point of returning to the JMC to inspire a new generation.
“Groups like these certainly become role models for our young students. Furthermore, we invite them specifically to teach and play for the young kids, to participate in coaching younger students,” says Sella. “So we get them actively involved in advancing the young generation.”
For the young pianists at the center, Kissin’s imminent arrival is causing great excitement. The in-demand pianist joins a top-tiered list of other celebrated artists who have played and taught at the JMC including Arthur Rubinstein, Christa Ludwig, Yo-Yo Ma, and Luciano Berio, among others.
“Master lessons with the world’s greatest and most inspiring musicians are the icing on the cake. It is very important to us that first-rate talents come, but it is only one part of the educational activities at the center,” Sella remarks. “The JMC is mostly about nurturing and promoting the finest Israeli young talents.”
And though attracting the young generation to classical music can be tough at times, Sella says Israel has plenty of capable adolescent musicians waiting to be groomed. In addition to the new enhancement program for young pianists, Sella is planning to develop the JMC’s young orchestra in the coming years. “We have a lot to look forward to in order to enrich young horizons. There’s a lot more left to do.”