Aspir­ing for per­fec­tion

Com­poser Nim­rod Boren­stein pre­pares for the Is­raeli pre­miere of his ‘The Big Bang and Cre­ation of the Universe’


‘It does not mat­ter where you live, this is all about the sense of be­long­ing,” says the in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed com­poser nim­rod boren­stein, 49, with the dis­arm­ing smile of an ever happy child, as he sits in a tel aviv café on the eve of the Is­raeli pre­miere of his the big bang and Cre­ation of the universe. “I was born in tel aviv, raised in paris and have been liv­ing in lon­don for thirty years – but open­ing the news­pa­per in the morn­ing, I first of all look at what is go­ing on in Is­rael.”

boren­stein was born into the fam­ily of renowned artist alec boren­stein, whose par­ents moved to France when their only child was just three years old. “mu­sic has al­ways been with me,” he rec­ol­lects. I started learn­ing mu­sic at the age of three and quickly de­cided that I want to be a com­poser. I wrote my first piece at six. I loved math, too – com­plex­ity and logic is what math­e­mat­ics and mu­sic have in com­mon; math is a pure cre­ation of mind and for­mu­las are el­e­gant. but I knew that this is mu­sic, which I can­not live with­out.”

he re­turned to Is­rael every sum­mer to spend six weeks with his grand­mother. one sum­mer, be­ing just 10, he dis­cov­ered phi­los­o­phy books in the fam­ily li­brary and started read­ing them. “I was al­ways at­tracted to logic,” he says.

Study­ing vi­o­lin and piano in paris, he be­came a lau­re­ate of the Cz­iffra Foun­da­tion, which helps young mu­si­cians at the out­set of their ca­reers, and sub­se­quently moved to lon­don in 1986 to pur­sue his stud­ies as a vi­o­lin­ist with Itzhak rashkovsky at the royal Col­lege of mu­sic. he was then awarded the high­est schol­ar­ship from the uK’s lev­er­hulme trust to study com­po­si­tion with paul pat­ter­son at the royal academy of mu­sic.

“I was still very young but I al­ready was a com­poser, so the learn­ing was like a partnership with my teacher. I was com­ing with a piece which was al­ready ready and we were spend­ing five or six hours to­gether,” rec­ol­lects boren­stein. “I gave my last con­cert as a vi­o­lin­ist at 22. I first thought that I would com­bine th­ese two ca­reers but prac­ti­cally it was im­pos­si­ble, since there are not enough hours in a day. and then I read that Chopin gave only 30 con­certs in his en­tire life.”

by aGe 18, he had quite a few com­po­si­tions to his credit. “and then I started think­ing – what will be my opus #1? I opted for a cello sonata, which was good any­way, lit­er­ary burn­ing my other com­po­si­tions; it was very youth­ful, eh?” he smiles. “and now I am at my opus 83. this in­cludes 7 con­certi, mu­sic for bal­let, pieces for choir, cham­ber mu­sic – a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing.”

nim­rod boren­stein re­vealed that he is cur­rently work­ing on sev­eral pro­jects, which in­clude a re­quiem and a song cy­cle for piano and so­prano on Shake­speare son­nets, with some be­ing re­ally im­por­tant for him, such as an opera on the drey­fus af­fair.

“I’ve been writ­ing mu­sic for 42 years and al­ways wanted to do my thing, but there is a dan­ger of re-writ­ing my­self. In some way, we do this, be­cause this is how we can rec­og­nize a com­poser by his style. but at the same time, pieces should be dif­fer­ent and over the years I find it more and more dif­fi­cult.”

So what is im­por­tant for him in his mu­sic?

“It might sound funny, but for me it is im­por­tant that it would be as good as that of beethoven. I as­pire for per­fec­tion. there is that phrase in the movie amadeus. mozart says: “the ex­act amount of notes ex­actly in the right place.” I feel the same, and this bal­ance is prob­a­bly the ma­jor chal­lenge in all art. this sounds very an­a­lytic but again, I don’t re­ally know what I want to do. I just want to write a piece which will be pow­er­ful.”

boren­stein’s com­po­si­tions are be­ing pre­miered and per­formed through­out europe, Canada, aus­tralia, ja­pan, tai­wan, Is­rael, South amer­ica, rus­sia and the uSa at pres­ti­gious venues – from the royal opera house and the royal Fes­ti­val hall in lon­don to the Salle Gaveau in paris and Carnegie hall in new york.

that said, the com­poser is mod­esty in­car­nate. When the in­ter­viewer men­tions this quality, boren­stein only smiles: “oh, this is funny, be­cause vladimir ashke­nazy says the same thing.” ashke­nazy is the world renowned pi­anist cum con­duc­tor and a great cham­pion of boren­stein’s out­put.

the IS­rael Cam­er­ata jerusalem orches­tra, un­der its artis­tic di­rec­tor avner biron Is­raeli, is premier­ing boren­stein’s the big bang and Cre­ation of the universe (2009).

“this 22-min­utes-long piece in three move­ments is sort of a sym­phony with el­e­ments of a con­certo,” he said. “It was com­mis­sioned by the fam­ily of Zvi meitar, a great phi­lan­thropist of arts, for his 75 birth­day. meitar, who passed away two years ago, was a spe­cial per­son of many in­ter­ests. once, while we were lunch­ing to­gether, he said: “I don’t want to im­pose on you any­thing, but...” and he told me that he once spon­sored re­search show­ing that the the­ory of the big bang and the to­rah do not con­tra­dict one an­other. I did not read the en­tire book, but just thirty pages of commentaries to Gen­e­sis,” he said.

“For me as a com­poser, the theme of Cre­ation is very in­ter­est­ing and I wrote many pieces on it, mostly based on the bi­ble be­cause this is a beau­ti­ful text. and then I thought it would be in­ter­est­ing to write an­other piece about Cre­ation, but from sci­en­tific point of view,” the com­poser said.

boren­stein’s mu­sic is barely per­formed in his home­land, if at all. “prob­a­bly be­cause I come to Is­rael for va­ca­tions and pre­fer to go to the beach and not to work,” he laughs, adding with­out elab­o­ra­tion: “but it is go­ing to change soon; I have more plans here.”

the con­certs take place november 11 at the tel aviv mu­seum of art, november 13 at henry Crown hall in jerusalem and november 15 at elma hall in Zichron ya’acov.

the pro­gram also fea­tures mozart’s Sym­phony #41, and re­quiem, by Ze­lenka, with Is­raeli and in­ter­na­tional soloists.

For more in­for­ma­tion and reservations: https://www.jcam­er­

(So­nia Fi­toussi)


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