As a youth in Tel Aviv, Israel, violist Ori Kam was immersed in chamber music.

His mother, Rachel, played the viola with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and musicians often gathered at the family’s home.

Photo by Felix Broede

“The Israel Philharmonic never played on a Friday night, because it’s the Sabbath,” Kam said. “She would always invite whoever was the soloist that week, plus some friends from the orchestra.”

Until six years ago, however, Kam had never played in a string quartet that had remained together for more than a year or two.

“Always somebody had a reason that the thing broke up,” Kam said. “Somebody went abroad to study; another person decided to do a competition and didn’t have time to rehearse anymore.”

Kam achieved professional stability in 2010, when he became a member of Jerusalem Quartet. The group — which also includes Alexander Pavlovsky (violin), Sergei Bresler (violin) and Kyril Zlotnikov (cello) — will perform Saturday in the Southern Theatre.

Zlotnikov resides in Portugal; the other quartet members live in Israel.

Kam, 41, was chosen to replace violist Amihai Grosz, who — like Pavlovsky, Bresler and Zlotnikov — had played with the ensemble since its creation in 1995.

The original members first worked together while attending the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. As children, Pavlovsky, Bresler and Zlotnikov had relocated to Israel from former Soviet republics; Grosz was born in Israel.

“The school picked them and put them together in (a) chamber group as part of the chamber-music requirement and gave them a coach, who was very motivated and invested a lot of time and effort into this group,” said Kam, who was born in San Diego but moved to his parents’ country of Israel at age 1.

Few would have foreseen the subsequent success of the quartet: In addition to recording albums, the ensemble performs about 70 concerts a year.

“They’re certainly one of the most talented and in-demand quartets in the world,” said Deborah Price, a member of the board of trustees of Chamber Music Columbus, which is presenting the concert.

On Saturday, the concert will kick off with Joseph Haydn’s “Quartet No. 53 in D major,” which goes by the alternate title “The Lark.”

“It’s called ‘Lark’ because the main subject in the first movement is almost like a little lark, tiptoeing and then singing,” Kam said. “It’s very beautiful.”

The concert will continue with Sergei Prokofiev’s “Quartet No. 1 in B minor” and will conclude with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Quartet No. 7 in F major,” the first in a series of works that originated from a commission by a Russian count, Andrey Razumovsky.

“As a gesture towards him,” Kam said, “Beethoven inserted a Russian folk theme into each of the quartets, and, in this quartet, it comes in the last movement.”

With the Jerusalem Quartet, Kam has found a steady perch for performing; the musicians even have long-range plans for works they wish to program.

“We have an outline of the pieces we need to cover until, I think, 2023,” said Kam, who remains grateful to have become part of the group.

“It’s been six years, and I still really can’t believe how lucky I am.”

Source: Columbus Dispatch – Nov 2016 –
By Peter Tonguette