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Taking Max Reger’s lesser-known but rich piano transcription of J. Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D-minor BWV 565, Meir Wiesel adapted it to the 8-hand “Octopus” constellation.Dousing the opening chords in a ringing effect of the sustaining pedal was a reminder of the grand church pipe organ and church acoustic, but from there, we were returned to the possibilities offered by two modern grand pianos.

Performer, scholar and researcher Taiseer Elias, one of the world’s leading soloists in the field of classical Arab music, founded and has headed the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance’s Department of Eastern Music, leading the Arab-Jewish Orchestra; he also teaches at Bar-Ilan University.

At the Tel Aviv concert, we heard Professor Elias in solo on the oud in improvisations and variations on “The Pretty Maiden”, an Arabic folk melody.

Elegant, virtuosic and succinct, Elias’ poetical playing produced a kaleidoscope of east and west – the song melody richly ornamented, then dovetailed with sections based on western harmonies, including a reflection on the Bach Toccata and Fugue performed prior to the solo.

Formed in 2013, “Octopus” consists of four pianists playing on two pianos – piano 1: Yifat Zeidel and Bart Berman, piano 2: Tavor Guchman and Meir Wiesel.

The ensemble’s aim is to promote high quality arrangements of classical works and to encourage and perform new Israeli works, having so far performed works by Josef Bardanashvili and Eran Ashkenazi.

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