of the concert in Mülheim, Germany, on February 27, 2004
February 27th, Esther Ofarim gave her first concert of 2004
in the industrial town of Mülheim an der Ruhr in North-Western Germany.
There was heavy snowfall that evening and it was difficult to get to the
concert hall on time (some concertgoers actually never made it!), but
inside the hall, the auditorium was filled with people who were either
adoring fans or hadn’t heard her live in a long time. When Esther
stepped on stage, she was greeted by warm applause. Thanking the
audience, she couldn’t help commenting on the weather conditions
outside: “We haven’t had that much snow in ages, have we?”, she
said, hinting to the audience that she, too, was happy to be inside.
was interesting to notice the change in Esther’s repertoire from the
year before: There are now more songs in English, 2 French songs have
been added (a most welcome move), but luckily, her Hebrew songs still
make up about 30% of her concert repertoire. My review will therefore
focus on songs that I haven’t heard Esther perform live before.
was in excellent voice throughout, overcoming some minor problems with
the audio system. Although nervous at the beginning, she soon felt
comfortable being on stage and it showed in her performance. What struck
me, was the realization of how good her upper register still is, quite
unusual for someone who has been singing for more than 40 years! Her
tones and phrasing are impeccable and - unlike other singers at her age
- she never sounds forced in her high notes.
of the songs recently added to her program was the 16th
century ballad “Pavane”, a piece of Renaissance music which was
performed with piano instead of the guitar accompaniment heard on her
1972 recording. Her dreamy rendition was in every way the equal of that
did her medley of lullabies, beginning with the Hebrew “Shir eres”
which segued into “Dodo, l’enfant do”, her second French song of
the evening. Esther has a way with children’s songs, and especially
lullabies, that is unparalleled.
last song before the “break” was Randy Newman’s “In Germany
before the war”. Esther’s understated delivery of the lyrics very
effectively pointed up the sadness of the song, only reinforced by
Michael Paweletz’ wailing violin accompaniment. A very thoughtful
interpretation, indeed! After that it was time for her musicians to
shine in solo performances (Yoni Rechter on piano, Michail Paweletz on
violin and Alfred Sommer on bass). First up in the intermission section
was an instrumental composition by Yoni Rechter performed by all 3
musicians, then a solo
vocal/piano rendition by Yoni (see song list below).
Esther returned, she looked even more beautiful in her black,
green-greyish deux-pièces and her sparkling earrings. She opened the
second half of the program with “Over the rainbow” from the
“Wizard of Oz”, a song everyone from Judy Garland to Ella Fitzgerald
has sung. However, in Esther’s interpretation the song became more of
a folk song rather than the Broadway-type ballad we usually think of
when we hear the song. A
great testament to Esther’s unique ability to take a well-known song
and make it her own!
next did a gentle, jazzy version of Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low”,
which sounds better and better with each performance. The subtle nuances
she now brings to a song such as this one are miles removed from her
“belted” recorded version of the 60’s.
two big surprises for me were Esther’s interpretations of “A taste
of honey” and “Morning of my life”. The former song is another
selection from the “Is it really me!” album, but it was sung so
beautifully that I was completely overwhelmed. The latter song
“Morning of my life” was an unlikely choice for Esther, since it is
usually identified with her duo period, but the mature version we heard
(with Yoni singing the male part of the duet) now stands alongside her
classic 60’s version of the song. Quite amazing!
a few more encores and a number of standing ovations, Esther thanked the
audience for the last time and told us to “get home safely and,
please, drive carefully!”
the concert hall it was still snowing, but with Esther’s beautiful
music still ringing in our ears, we walked through the snow feeling as
if we had just received a belated Christmas present.
also see My
personal review in German
back to the concert