Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Helfgot performs Cantorial Classics

An admittedly non-mavens review of Yitzchok Meir Helfgot's "Cantorial Classics" performance this past Sunday night, December 3rd, at The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.

1. Although I enjoyed the entire concert from beginning to end, I did find that the more familiar I was with Helfgot's rendition of a specific piece (from his CD's), the less I enjoyed it. This was even more pronounced in cases that I was previously familiar with Motti Sobol's arrangements (e.g., Hallilu , Brach dodi , V'chol hachayim). I would guess the reason is that digitally recorded studio music played at a high volume will always sound better than live music from a distance of 1/4 mile (roughly the distance between Family Circle, Row G, Seat 217 and the orchestra). Also, I was much more attuned to the slight variations in those pieces which was a little distracting.

2. Each piece was preceded by a short video introduction in which Sobol gave a brief history of the composer and the chazzan that popularized that piece. I enjoyed that format and there were some interesting tidbits in some of those clips. (Like Yossle Rosenblatt's fatal heart attack while being filmed for a movie in a boat in the middle of the Jordan river while he was singing "Hayam ra'ah vyanos hayarden tisov liachar"). However, I would urge all those that attend future concerts not to applaud during these clips. You see, IT'S PRERECORDED. The speaker will not wait for the clapping to die down. If you applaud for five seconds, you are going to miss five seconds of what he's saying. It would make more sense to wait until the end of the video and then to applaud. Even if he mentions the words "Boro Park". (For some reason every mention of BP elicited whoops and hollers).

3. In many chazzanus pieces, the climax of the entire piece is the ending. I therefore was perplexed and frustrated when the audience broke into applause and screams as Helfgot approached the last few notes of each piece thereby totally drowning out his voice.

4. I noticed a few members of my community who were trying to hide in the shadows. Apparently they wanted to be at this concert but they didn't want to be seen. Grow up.

5. I was a little uncomfortable when Rabbi Lau's thanks to Hakadsh Baruch Hu was met with thunderous applause. It could have been worse though,at least there were no chants of "Go G-d Go".

6. I overheard a few people commenting that it seemed like Helfgot was having a bit of an off night. Since I have never heard him perform live before, I have no benchmark to compare last night to. He seemed on top of his game to me although his voice did "phlegm up" two or three times during the evening, Interestingly, it never happened at the really high notes as far as I recall.

All in all, a very entertaining evening. Hopefully there will be many more of these in the future.