Members of Canada’s ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) took to the studio during January to record an album of works by Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim (1897-1984) for Chandos. The disc is due to be released in June 2013 and is the Ensemble's fourth recording following three albums on RCA Red Seal.
Taking place at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall in Toronto, the sessions featured the premiere recording of Ben-Haim’s Piano Quartet in C minor, Op 4 - a work which has not been heard for the best part of 80 years. Also included on the album are his Clarinet Quintet, Op 31a; Two Landscapes for viola and piano, Op 27; and his Three Songs without Words, Op 45 and Improvisation and Dance, Op 30, each for violin and piano.
A German Jew, known as Paul Frankenberger before fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s, Paul Ben-Haim played a fundamental role in establishing the modern-day Israeli music scene. Artists who have recorded his music include Yehudi Menuhin, Izhak Perlman and Menahem Pressler, as well as conductors Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein. He held posts at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the Shulamit Conservatory in Tel Aviv, and served as president of the Israel Composers League. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 1957.
His Piano Quartet was completed in 1921 and thus predates his emigration by some years. ‘It's a youthful work and full of terrific ideas but there is also huge craft, and a well-developed sense of how to balance what can often end up being a tricky instrumental combination,’ said viola player Steven Dann. ‘There's a world separating the Piano Quartet with the works he composed in Palestine. It's almost as if there were two different composers,’ added cellist Bryan Epperson.
Also featured on the Piano Quartet recording are violinist Benjamin Bowman and pianist David Louie. The album is produced by David Frost and engineered by Carl Talbot. Executive producer of the project is the ARC Ensemble's artistic director Simon Wynberg.
The ARC Ensemble will give the UK premiere of Ben-Haim's Piano Quartet at Wigmore Hall on March 10, alongside works by Weinberg, Laks and Mendelssohn.