Following on last year’s theme of Israel at 60, this year’s theme is The Jews in America.
“After an immersion into Israeli music last season, it seemed natural to follow the immigration of Eastern European music to our own shores,” said Aron Zelkowicz, director and founder of the music festival. “In one way, America is sort of the next arrival point for these immigrants.”
Returning from his previous performance at the music festival in 2007, David Krakauer will be playing June 2 in the Katz Performing Arts Center at the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center. He will be performing several klezmer pieces, including “The Klezmer Concerto,” which Zelkowicz says, “will bring the house down.”
“It was just a pleasure to have the opportunity to bring him back,” Zelkowicz said. “He attracted a large audience last time. They were really impressed and surprised by the variety of sounds they heard. He has a real knack for connecting with his audience.”
Prior to Krakauer’s playing, Zelkowicz will play a selection of pieces by Ernest Bloch. The 50th anniversary of his death is being remembered during the festival.
“His music takes its inspiration from Eastern European and Chasidic sources, as well as biblical and Middle Eastern influences,” Zelkowicz said. “I’ve been doing Jewish recital programs since I was an undergraduate. I played his (Bloch’s) stuff at my freshman recital. Hopefully I play it better now.”
Violinist Nurit Pacht will also honor Bloch by playing a few of his pieces as well.
On Sunday, June 7, the festival will make its first trip to the South Hills, where Temple Emanuel will host a program called “Hebrew Melodies from the New World.”
“We have a new relationship with Temple Emanuel,” Zelkowicz said. “It gives the residents of the South Hills a chance to attend an event that is a little more accessible.”
The same program will be played June 8 in Levy Hall at Rodef Shalom Congregation.
The program on June 7 and 8 is made up of chamber music and vocals.
Zelkowicz, along with seven other musicians, will be playing pieces from a variety of composers, including Bloch. The chamber music is something that Zelkowicz said has always been a hit with the audience.
“Every year we have had chamber music with a variety of instruments and vocal chamber work,” he said. “It has attracted a consistent following of people who are attracted by the intimacy of the chamber music genre.”
To close out the concerts, first-time festival performer Andy Statman will play June 15 in the Katz Center at the Squirrel Hill JCC.
“His music fuses jazz, bluegrass and Jewish klezmer music,” Zelkowicz said. “In that sense he fits in very well with America’s melting pot and music diversity.”
For the first time, the music festival is offering a subscription for the concerts, giving a discount to those who purchase tickets for all three events. Those buying the subscription will also receive a free ticket for a guest to the Statman concert on June15.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)