March 21, 2003
Jerusalem Quartet loves to play
WENDY ELLIMAN SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH BULLETIN
At Carnegie Hall, in the Kennedy Centre and London's Wigmore Hall,
in the premier concert halls of Europe, Australia, New Zealand,
South America and South Africa, they wear sober jackets and ties.
At home in the Jerusalem Music Centre, however, these four young
Israelis in their mid-20s are far happier in jeans and T-shirts.
Together, Alexander (Sasha) Pavlovsky, Sergei Bressler, Amichai
Gross and Kyril Zlotnikov are the Jerusalem Quartet, Israel's only
professional string quartet, and in demand worldwide as one of the
most creative, dynamic and talented musical ensembles of this generation.
"Although we all started playing when we were five years old,
we didn't meet until our teens," said Gross, 24, the quartet's
viola player and the only native Israeli of the four.
The others came to Israel in 1991 - violinist Pavlovsky, now 26,
from Kiev, violinist Bressler from Kharkov and cellist Zlotnikov
from Minsk, both now 25. They enrolled in the Conservatory of the
Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music and Dance on Young Musicians' scholarships
and studied under violinist Avraham Abramovich. Two years later,
they played their first concert together.
"Music was our ticket into Israeli society," said Pavlovsky.
"It made our aliyah easy. Then, as now, it occupied 80 per
cent of our waking day."
Zlotnikov is the only member of the group who is married. "But
my wife, Stella, is a musician herself," he said, "a violinist
who studied under the same teacher, so she understands."
Success came very fast for the quartet. By the time the four enrolled
for military service in 1997, they had already triumphed in their
first international contest the Franz Schubert and the Music
of the 20th Century Competition at Graz in Austria where
they carried off first prize and the prize for the best interpretation
of 20th-century music; the first of a long and continuing roster
of prizes awarded to the four, both as a quartet and as soloists.
Perhaps more important than the prizes, however, is that "wherever
we play, we're always invited back," said Bressler.
"The fact that we're the youngest of the world's leading quartets
interests our audiences," said Pavlovsky. "And our name,
Jerusalem Quartet, draws people as well."
Only once has politics interfered with the quartet's music, when
Palestinian students succeeded in stopping a Jerusalem Quartet performance
in Manchester, England. "For the most part, however, the kinds
of people who enjoy what we have to offer are not interested in
politics," said Pavlovsky.
Theoretically, Gross is responsible for the group's security during
the six months of each year that they perform outside Israel. "Kyril
looks after travel arrangements and tickets," he said, "Sergei
deals with our finances, Sasha organizes our appearances in Israel
and I do everything else. Security is clearly a consideration when
we travel. Our appearances are publicized, so we have to be careful."
All four underwent basic training when they were first inducted
into the Israel Defence Forces, but the bulk of their IDF service
was as a quartet, performing for soldiers all over Israel. When
their military service ended three years ago, they changed status
to Distinguished IDF Musicians and continue to play for troops three
times a week when they're in Israel.
Often abroad (with bookings up to a year ahead) or on the road in
Israel, it's the Jerusalem Music Centre that the quartet calls home.
Having been allocated one of two recently built studios there, they
put in three to four hours of practice each day.
Located in Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim neighborhood, the centre
was established 30 years ago by the Jerusalem Foundation at the
joint initiative of master violinist Isaac Stern and then-mayor
Teddy Kollek, as a meeting place for visiting maestros and talented
young Israeli musicians.
The quartet's remarkable success, however, does not completely free
them from everyday financial burdens and worries. For this reason,
the Jerusalem Foundation has raised funds, in the framework of its
international gathering, to ensure that the foursome can continue
to focus on their musical endeavors and maximize their musical potential
for the next three years. It is hoped that by then they will be
"Supporting the quartet until they are financially independent
will help the city as well as the players," explained Ruth
Cheshin, Jerusalem Foundation president. "The quartet will
be a magnet in Jerusalem, promoting music education and love of
music in schools and community centres citywide." The quartet
hopes to play a series of three to five concerts a year, both for
the paying public, as well as in schools and in community centres.
And how do the members of the quartet feel about this addition to
an already full playing schedule?
"We feel good," said Zlotnikov. "The four of us share
the same work ethic. The first vacation we ever took was after playing
together daily for nine years, and that was only for two weeks.
We love to play, whether it's in an international contest or a renowned
concert hall, at an IDF base somewhere in Israel or in the city
that's our home."
Wendy Elliman is with the Israel Press Service.