Meeting Simon Casali-Krzentowski off-stage is like being introduced to a
completely different person. The young conductor who explodes, rebels
and frantically inspires his musicians during performances, becomes a
gentle, almost shy person when he no longer wears his concert dress.
Sunday the 17th of February, he will perform with his Hafnia Chamber
Orchestra at the Jerusalem Theatre, presenting works of, amongst others,
Ben-Haim, Donizetti and Tchaikovsky in a concert where the Old World
meets the New World. A monologue:
When I introduce myself, the first question people always ask me, is
where my last name comes from. Originally a Krzentowski, my grandfather
changed his last name into the less Jewish sounding Casali. This was
just before the Holocaust started, after which he fled Italy to start a
new life in Mexico. As a sign of respect for, and identification with,
my past, I decided to add the original family name to the existing one.
It shows the complexity of exile: I have family all over the world.
My parents moved to The Netherlands in which I lived my first 25 years,
after which I continued my studies in Finland and Denmark, residing
currently in the latter. I visit Israel frequently, and itís therefore
such a joy to come back now with my own orchestra.
In the summer of 2005 I founded the Hafnia Chamber Orchestra. Hafnia is
the Latin name for Copenhagen and was chosen to show the international
character of the orchestra. The sixteen members are from various
orchestras from both Denmark and abroad, including the Royal Danish
Opera Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Hamburg Opera and Finnish Radio
Orchestra. We are all young musicians who come together to enjoy and
perform music during short projects in Denmark and abroad.
In preparing the tour to Israel, putting a programme together was one of
the most fascinating tasks. I wanted to present music that would have an
artistic and cultural coherence as well as contrast and conflict, all
under the subject of the Old World meeting the New World. Presenting
music of Nielsen and Langgaard, the two leading Danish composers of the
first half of the 20th Century, I put together two artists who during
their lifetime were bitter competitors. While the former presented the
more innovative stream, the latter clung to old Romantic principles.
Nielsen acquired world fame, whereas Langgaard died unknown and
Performing in Israel meant for me presenting a work of an Israeli
composer. Ben-Haim was the perfect exponent. Born in Europe and
responsible for educating and inspiring a whole generation of Israeli
composers he is the personification of the Old World meeting the New
World. The two last composers who complete the programme, Donizetti and
Tchaikovsky, present a European journey from Tsarist Russia to the warm
Mediterranean. Donizetti wrote his work as a teenager, Tchaikovsky wrote
his work after a visit to Italy. The question as to if I consider Israel
to be the Old or the New World, I wonít give an answer. That is to be
interpreted by the listeners of our concert.
Having toured Vietnam last year, itís important for me to come with the
orchestra to Israel. Itís frightening and sad to see how the world has
turned its sympathy for the country into scepticism and aggressive
criticism. Now that the Holocaust more and more becomes a memory, the
feeling of supporting a country which ensures that something like that
will never happen again, disappears with it. The softer the cries of
survivors become, the louder the opposition against Israel gets. I see
how people around me, always having felt the security of a safe
democracy, judge a country surrounded by so much aggression and threats.
To come here and make music therefore is so much more then just
performing in great venues and visiting family. Itís showing my support
for something I believe in. Itís returning to a country I deeply love.
Itís like coming home.
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