March 22, 2013
Music review: Violist Ori Kam kicks off S&R Foundation’s Overtures spring series
The viola is called the “Cinderella of the strings” because it often plays in the shadows of the violin and cello. But at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Thursday night, it took center stage in a recital by Ori Kam, whose expressive and lyrical performance kicked off the S&R Foundation’s Overtures Spring Concert Series.
Playing a 2009 viola made by Hiroshi Iizuka, Kam projected a warm, honeyed tone flecked with spice. As he progressed through his program, Kam’s timbre turned increasingly complex, like a fine cabernet sauvignon on the palate.
In Brahms’s Sonata No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, the violist commanded a full-bodied romantic sound and molded it into melodic lines — here feathery sweet, there molten caramel. They spiraled in conversation with dramatic and supportive harmonies provided by pianist Nelson Padgett.
Kam’s ability to craft long phrases, as a vocalist would sing lieder, served him well in an arrangement of Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata in A Minor, D. 821. His interpretation of the work was full of emotions, which flowed one after another during its three movements — loving, whimsical, plaintive, agitated and, finally, serene.
Similarly, George Enesco’s “Concertpiece” elicited a darker timbre, but Kam never compromised his tone’s singing quality.
Alone onstage, the soloist created the aural illusion of a viola duo playing in two Telemann fantasies. Several sustained high notes wavered precariously in Fantasy No. 11, but Kam’s toe-tapping finale dashed them away, just as he exuded confidence in a playful Fantasy No. 12.
June 10, 2012
The directness of the music is also evident in Ori Kam's perfect new recording of the fantasies. His intense, colorful viola sounds in each movement eloquent and expressive. Kam playfully lines miniature after miniature leaving one unable to pick the most impressive. The warm-sounding middle register of the instrument is of rare beauty. Kam also knows how to give the high tones of the viola a radiant glow, which is unusual for this otherwise rather nasal sounding instrument. Compared to the overly hyped Nils Mönkemeyer, Kam's playing is musically more substantive, meaningful and expressive. One feels that Kam is building a balanced career as soloist, chamber musician (Jerusalem Quartet) and orchestra member (Berlin Philharmonic), focusing on developing all his talents, and not only on achieving quick public success.
Ori Kam has enriched the viola repertoire with his Telemann CD of twelve jewels, which I hope will soon find their place in the concert world.
Georg Philip Telemann
12 Fantasies for Solo Viola
In order to realize the cycle on the viola, Ori Kam has transposed it downwards by a fifth, the score has otherwise been left unchanged. The effect is astonishing, the sound is warmer and more voluminous in relation to the violin and brings completely new dimensions to the music. An impression that is based above all on the phenomenal interpretation. Kam's celebration of sound sophistication and culture is sensational! Coupled with his uncanny secure rhythmical instinct, his exuberant, but never uncontrolled sovereign stunning musicality and technique he achieves an exemplary recording of the highest class.
CLASSICAL: Came (Kam) Saw and Triumphed
Attention, Mussician's joke: Why don't violists like to visit graveyards? Because there are too many sharps (Crosses). Ori Kam, who grew up in Israel and the United States, is certainly not the target of such jokes. He plays the viola in Telemann's "12 Fantasies for solo viola" with great virtuosity and deepest expression. The sharps in the musical text are for him: laughable!
Wednesday, April 7th, 1999
Ori Kam and Ilan Rechtman: A Viola Soloist, and a Bernsteinian Pianist.
"Mr. Kam presented an impressive recital on Sunday"
"Mr. Kam luxuriates in the viola's dusky, warm tone..."
"...his musical integrity was consistently rewarding."
"Mr. Kam's playing at once mature and youthfully exuberant. He is an attractive, engaging presence onstage"
Violist Ori Kam played Hindemith's Sonata Op. 11 No. 4 with great warmth and freedom. Born in America but raised in Israel, he is an excellent performer with natural poise and charm; his fine technique and lovely, dark tone are entirely at the service of the music. He was presented by the Daniel Kuhn Foundation and partnered with strong, friendly rapport by a fellow Israeli, pianist composer Ilan Rechtman. Schubert's "Arpeggione" Sonata was overly inflected and effusive, but Brahms' Sonata No. 1 was somber, austere, and beautifully Romantic.
My teacher Chaim Taub, the former concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, was a real inspiration to me. I recently sat in his living room and listened to stories of his childhood in what was then Palestine under the British mandate. He spoke of sneaking into concerts to hear the Palestine Symphony Orchestra to see Arturo Toscanini conduct, and of his teachers, some of that ages's greatest musicians who had fled Facism in Europe. Later on, determined to enroll at the Juilliard School, he travelled to New York on a US military ship carrying troops returning home after the Second World War. He hadn't registered or auditioned, he just showed up one day and demanded to join Ivan Galamian's class. He was admitted and finished his studies there.
Chaim was a very demanding teacher, but his criticism was always constructive. He taught me the language of music and how to interpret it. Well into his 80's today, he is still at it in full force. I wish him, and us, many more musical years to come.
Thursday, October 15th, 1999
He's a violist and he's proud of it
"Like every good Jewish boy, Ori Kam started to play the violin, then gradually shifting to the viola..."
October 26, 1999
The night belongs to Ori Kam
Bela Bartok left only outlines for his viola concerto, but the piece, which was constructed from these outlines is very beautiful and allows the sloloist to display both virtuosity and expression. Ori Kam, 24 years old, replaced Nabuko Imai, but stole the show. If we have such a violist in Israel, why look elsewhere? From the first contact of his bow on the string a broad, penetrating and pleasant sound eminated. I expected, naively, that the audience would demand to hear the final movement again, but alas I was disappointed.
October 26, 1999
The Light at the end of the tunnel:
Season opening concert of the Israel Symphony Orchestra. Heichal Hatarbut Rishon Lezion, conducted by Mendi Rodan
Ori Kam stands on stage, a young 24 year-old Israeli, and is performing Bartok's wonderful viola concerto with astonishing maturity. I sit in disbelief: his Bartok transcends into a hymn for poetics, refinment, and personal expression. Fantastic.
Talent simply eminates from his every pore. It's not just his virtuosity, but the warmth of his playing. If only for this young discovery, the entire concert was worth it. And indeed, last night Ori was the light at the end of the tunnel.
Tuesday, November 21st, 1995
Amazing Duo with Brilliant Violist
Ori Kam and Liran Avni (piano) playing in Rüdesheim
"Together with his wonderful accompanist, he executed this composition from Hindemith's "rebellious" period with an elastic profile, alternating between boisterous expressivity, and hammering ostinato rhythm - a remarkable performance."
"Ori Kam played with a soft velvety sound, astonishing control, and elegant bow technique. One could enjoy the sound-soaked Musicianship, which navigated between the virtuosic and most intimate of moments, all with flawless intonation even in the hardest of passages."