Ann Arbor Weather:
Sunday October 24, 2021
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
Avi Avital, Kinan Azmeh, and The Knights

Avi Avital, Kinan Azmeh, and The Knights

A melding of master musicians

by Sandor Slomovits

From the November, 2017 issue

The optics are very good: an Israeli mandolinist, a Syrian composer and clarinetist, and a Brooklyn orchestra all making music together. When was the last time the political representatives of those three countries were in harmony with each other? But the joint UMS concert of Avi Avital, Kinan Azmeh, and The Knights will not be a political event. It's a melding of master musicians collaborating to create spectacular music. While they all were raised and trained in disparate countries and cultures, they communicate fluently in the universal language of music.

Avital, one of the few true virtuosos of the classical mandolin, not only excels in the myriad techniques of his instrument but is an insightful interpreter of Baroque and Romantic composers--a number of whom wrote specifically for the mandolin--as well as a powerful improviser in jazz and traditional folk genres. He has also been known, on occasion, to break into R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion."

Azmeh composes for solo clarinet, chamber ensembles, orchestras, and films. He sometimes uses electronic devices to enhance his playing and collaborates with visual artists to create multimedia works with live illustration. He's played the clarinet with orchestras all over the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, and is a member of Yo-Yo Ma's elite, diverse, and eclectic Silk Road Ensemble.

In performance, Avital and Azmeh have much in common, but they are also a study in contrasts. Avital plays sitting down, cradles his instrument against his chest, fingers flitting over the fingerboard, faultlessly negotiating the impossibly tight spaces between frets, coaxing out the intricate ornamentations of Baroque music. His right hand moves at hummingbird-wing speeds to create long sustained-note tremolos and, by manipulating the angle of his pick, a wider range of dynamics and tone colors than you would expect from a mandolin.

Azmeh stands to play and sways, arches, and bends like the notes undulating from his instrument. Although he is clearly capable of speedy passages, he tends to favor slow, soulful, otherworldly phrases. He

...continued below...


usually walks through the audience at least once in his concerts.

At Rackham Auditorium November 12, Avital and Azmeh will be joined by The Knights, a Brooklyn-based orchestral ensemble dedicated to transforming audiences' experiences of classical music by offering concerts that range, as this one will, from Bach, Purcell, and Schubert to Azmeh's triple Concertino for Clarinet, Mandolin, and Violin--which they commissioned expressly for this tour--plus an extended medley of traditional Middle Eastern, Balkan, and klezmer music.

When this unique collective of musicians comes to town, the optics will be very good--and the sonics are bound to be astounding.     (end of article)

[Originally published in November, 2017.]

 


 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Today's Events
Sports, Dancing, Nature, & Recreation
Railroad Jack, the "Intellectual Hobo"
A self-made celebrity on college campuses, he now rests in peace in Ann Arbor.
Dave McCormick
Crawford Out
For the second time in two years, city council voted to remove the city administrator.
James Leonard
Abercrombie & Fitch, Kasoa African Market
October 2021 Marketplace Closings
Micheline Maynard
Remembering Professor Don Cameron, by Jeffrey A. Stacey
Opportunity Index
When Success by 6 searches for families in need, it has the help of a powerful data-mapping tool.
Trilby MacDonald
Mystery Bins
Who's really collecting that used clothing?
Tim Athan
Photo: George's Garden (detail)
Surviving the Pandemic
Hard work, loyal customers, and PPP grants got the city's oldest restaurants through the storm.
Micheline Maynard
a2view the Ann Arbor Observer's weekly email newsletter