Thursday, January 26, 2012
Clarinetist Tibi Cziger, founder and artistic director of the Israeli Chamber Project, says his touring ensemble is completely apolitical. But sometimes, the mere presence of his chamber group in certain areas makes politics unavoidable.
“Recently, there was a major debate in Israel on whether we could play on [Arab] occupied territory or not,” Cziger says. “But one of our earliest missions was to also play in the Arab communities. Even when there’s been riots, we still go and have been fine. We aren’t a political ensemble and we have no agenda.”
Cziger grew up in Tel Aviv listening to and playing the chamber music of greats like Brahms and Shostakovich. He came up with the idea to create the Israeli Chamber Project while a student at Juilliard in New York.
“I wanted to have one foot in Israel and one foot in the U.S.,” he says.
Cziger also thought a chamber group would have an easier time playing in remote places in Israel – most of which are made up of populations that have never heard chamber music, let alone live classical music – because there’s no need for a stage or a piano. Cziger was able to use his vision to bring together a core of eight talented chamber musicians, five Juilliard-trained.
When the outfit – based in both Israel and New York City – isn’t transcending boundaries in Israel, they tour in the U.S.
“At all of our concerts we always look for a couple of opportunities to speak to the audience,” Cziger says. “This establishes a connection on a level that everyone understands rather than just coming out and playing; classical music is a high form of art and if you have no knowledge it will be much harder to enjoy.”
On Sunday, the Carmel Music Society brings Cziger and four other members of the Israeli Chamber project to the Sunset Center for an afternoon of classic and contemporary chamber music. The program will feature works including Shostakovich’s Trio for piano, violin and cello in C minor, Op. 8 and Brahms’ Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in A minor, Op. 114.
As a nonprofit organization relying solely on donations, the Israeli Chamber Project also funds educational and outreach programs. They even commissioned young and underprivileged Israeli composers that would ordinarily have no means to pursue a career or an education in music to compose music specifically to be performed by the ICP. While touring around some of Israel’s poorer communities, the musicians have also become known for setting aside time to teach some of the kids in between their performances.
“Our goal is to bring people together through music,” Cziger says. “It doesn’t matter who listens to us; we’ll play for whoever wants to hear music.”
THE ISRAELI CHAMBER PROJECT performs at 3pm Sunday, Jan. 29, at Sunset Center, San Carlos at Ninth , Carmel. $30; $35; $39; $43. 620-2048.