To see three passionate ambassadors of their instruments performing together made a sensationally satisfying evening at St Georges, Bristol. Avi Avital, Ksenija Sidorova and Itamar Doari played on traditional instruments that they are each rejuvenating in the classical music world. Avital led the evening on his mandolin and was full of energy on stage. His personal vibrance reflected strongly in his performance.

Avi Avital © Harald Hoffmann
Avi Avital
© Harald Hoffmann

Avital was highly tuned to the different moods required by each piece, still engaged and very present in his performance of Bach. There is something fresh about the way he brings the mandolin to a concert hall, sharply dressed and giving informative explanations of the pieces he seemingly cannot wait to perform. His playing style was delicate and sophisticated with a dynamic injection of spirit into the music. This was in perfect balance with both Ksenija Sidorova playing accordion and Itamar Doari performing percussion. The combination of the three was absolutely gripping.

Sidorova, the prolific accordion ambassador, gave a full and faultless performance. The highlights of her playing were a sweet and sultry rendition of Bach’s Sarabande from the Overture in the French Style, in which the chords crooned from the keys of the accordion and the bellows were used to create a full-power sound.

Ksenija Sidorova © SL Chai
Ksenija Sidorova
© SL Chai
Technique-wise, there was little to fault these three brilliant artists, each a complete master of their instruments giving incredibly polished performances. Doari’s timing and in depth understanding of the complex rhythms required by each of the different styles of folk music were essential in defining the different styles from different countries. His background in wide-ranging techniques and exposure to a lot of different traditional styles of music are key to his personality on stage as Doari demonstrates an outstanding ability to flip between contrasting styles with ease. The first piece he performed in was the traditional Turkish, Nacyem Nacyem for which his drum was lit up from the inside behind the skin. His rhythmic patterns were projected around the room giving the music a brilliant atmospheric edge as his drum solos were captivating to watch. Doari had a way of playing in a carefree fashion with absolutely meticulous rhythm always dynamic, moving and intensely listening even when he wasn't playing in a piece.

The programme selection for the evening, aptly named ‘Between Worlds’ was as engaging as the performers themselves, all the more because it was selected by the performers and it was evident in their playing that they enjoyed the contrasting moods of the programmed works. At the beginning of the concert, Avital said a few words about why he had selected the programme explaining that he wanted to blend the borders of pieces and the worlds they came from. This involved three principal backgrounds where pieces that had a theme of integrating folk music into the classical music world, such as Béla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, were mixed with purely classical pieces, such as Bach’s Sonata in BWV 1019 in G major (Allegro) and also solely traditional folk pieces which hadn’t been exposed in the classical music concert environment, such as the traditional Israeli piece Mi Yitneni Of.

The exploratory nature of juxtaposing Bach with improvisations and traditional folk music was blended seamlessly where the start and finish of the traditional songs ran straight into a following piece of Bach for the majority of the first half. The highlight of these contrasting moments was Itamar Doari’s improvisation for percussion solo blending into a traditional Bulgarian piece, Bucimis, for mandolin and percussion and followed by Sulkhan Tsintsadze’s “Miniatures” based on Georgian Folk Themes where Sidorova joined on the accordion.

Their final encore was a real send off to the outstanding evening's performance with a loud and fun version of Brahms' Hungarian Dance no. 5 met with a standing ovation for what has to be the highlight of the concert season at St George’s. This was a real triumph of a programme successfully blending the boundaries 'Between Worlds'.