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Joburg choirmaster instrumental in bringing Profeti Della Quinta to SA

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When Adam Golding, the choirmaster at Great Park Shul, heard the magnificent sound of the Profeti Della Quinta musical ensemble in Vienna almost two years ago, he embarked on a personal mission to introduce their sound to South Africa.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Oct 12, 2018

His mission was successful, as they are now heading to our shores.

A musician with a keen interest in early Jewish music, Golding first heard the group perform in Berlin in December 2016 at a festival in which a group under his own leadership, the Lewandowski Chorale, was also performing.

“I was struck by the purity and accessibility of their music,” says Golding. “I had heard of them before, but I had no sense of just how good they really were. I bought every one of their CDs; stupidly, as it turned out, because Elam Rotem [the founder] would eventually give them all to me as a gift after we met.”

Golding and Rotem hit it off immediately, and hatched the idea to bring the group to South Africa as soon as possible. Says Golding: “I took it on as a personal project. My sole motivation was to expose South Africans – Jews and non-Jews alike – to a type of music which we are deprived of in our country.”

Described as Renaissance and Baroque music meeting Hebrew lyrics and Israeli flair, Profeti Della Quinta will be performing live for the first time in the Southern hemisphere next month.

Singing to packed houses across the globe, the group has graced some of the most prestigious stages in the world, and has been known to bring first timers to their feet with tears streaming down their cheeks. They will be bringing their musical prowess to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Founded in Israel’s Galilee region by bass singer and harpsichordist Rotem, the group is today based in Basel, Switzerland, where its members undertook further studies of early music at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. The ensemble consists of a core of five male singers, and focuses on the vocal repertoire of the 16th and early 17th centuries, specifically Renaissance and Baroque music. Together, this collection of a tenor, countertenor, and bass singers performs compositions of the periods as well as those written by Rotem, which are inspired by the music style of the time.

The inception of Profeti Della Quinta lies, of all places, in the corridors of the high school Rotem attended. “The acoustics there were unbelievable,” laughs Rotem. “I assembled a few people who could sing, and we would perform mediaeval pieces right outside the classrooms. People heard this weird music, and were excited to listen and know more.” Rotem went on to join forces with other equally passionate Israeli musicians, eventually establishing the ensemble and taking it to Europe.

Rotem has been a fervent admirer of this type of music for years, and has conducted extensive research in the field. In the course of his musical exploration, Rotem came across the works of the early Baroque Jewish-Italian composer Salomone Rossi, a prominent violinist whose compositions often feature Hebrew lyrics. Rotem considers himself a student of the musical master, and identifies strongly with his compositions.

Says Rotem, “We are Israelis, and because Hebrew is our mother tongue, we have the advantage of being able to grasp the true significance of the music and take Rossi’s work to greater heights.

“He was inspired by the Western musical language, and sought to improve it through compositions for the synagogue. Also, he was privileged to have in his community professional Jewish musicians who were able to assist him in bringing this unique music to life. We are professional musicians in our own right, and happen to be Hebrew speaking, so you could say we are following in Rossi’s footsteps.”

In 2009, the ensemble released its first CD, dedicated to Rossi’s Hebrew music, and went on to win the York Early Music International Young Artists competition two years later, propelling their international career. The ensemble has since performed in prestigious festivals and venues in Europe, Israel, Finland, Poland, Belgium, Austria, Italy, and other European countries. In 2013, the ensemble made its debut in Canada, followed by concert tours in Japan and the United States.

But, they perform much more than just Hebrew compositions. From Lamentations by Emilio de' Cavalieri, to programmes dedicated to the Italian madrigal repertoire, the group performs a wide array of music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Among Rotem’s own compositions is a musical adaptation of the episode from the Torah in which Joseph’s brethren take their brother’s torn coat to their father after selling him, using verses taken directly from the narrative.

It is because of novelties such as this that Golding has been determined to bring the ensemble to South Africa.

“I was struck by the purity and accessibility of their music,” says Golding. “Baroque music is not often performed in South Africa. Many people classify it as classical music, and the truth is that they are very different. Fortunately, the prominence of the style is growing in South Africa, with more and more performances taking place every year.”

The ensemble will be performing at both the Gardens Shul in Cape Town and Great Park Shul in Johannesburg, and Golding has singlehandedly undertaken the funding and co-ordination of the performances.

Although he has to sell a considerable number of tickets simply to cover his costs, Golding is adamant that his goal is not to make money from this venture. “This is not about profit,” he says. “This is about bringing something unique to our country, and enabling people to experience a musical event that they seldom get the opportunity to attend.”

Golding describes the ensemble as people possessed of the greatest combination of early music and Hebrew lyrics. “No one in the world has done what they do,” he says. “Rossi has been taken to a new level through them.

“I aim to expose South Africans to a music and singing experience unlike any other. No one, from a singer to a person who doesn’t know much about music, should miss this.”

The ensemble will be performing in Cape Town on 11 November, and in Johannesburg on 14 and 15 November. Visit https://profetidellaquinta.nutickets.co.za for bookings and more information.

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