Israeli composer Baruch Berliner told Musical Klondike about the creation of the Genesis Symphonic Poem and its evolution into a large musical project.

Baruch Berliner (left) and Nahum Slutsker

– How was the work on the Symphonic Poem “Genesis”? The work is filled with philosophical and spiritual ideas about the origin of the Universe and life. How did you put that meaning into music? What inspired you?

– Music and faith have always been the two most important issues in my life. The idea of connecting biblical texts with music, describing the content of Scripture in the language of music, has been in my mind for a long time. It came into my head with lightning speed, like a flash of mind in the moment of inspiration.
At that moment, I thought, “If this idea can be realized, it must be realized!”

I know that any text is better remembered and understood if they are associated with melodic music that “catches” the audience. For this reason, it was a dream for me to write a symphonic poem on biblical texts, which I managed to realize with the support of my music teacher, a wonderful friend, and producer Nachum Slutzker. We spend a lot of time together to delve deeply into the meaning of biblical texts, describe them in musical terms and analyze their influence. We call this process crystallization, which leads us to endless exploration and improvement of the Symphonic Poem.

The process of composing the Symphonic Poem “Genesis” was rather slow. On the one hand, we carefully worked on every note and every melody, as we attach great importance to the Bible, which we wanted to embody in the language of music in our own way, as much as possible. On the other hand, we did not want to rush, waiting for inspiration to write all parts of the work, so that it would be very personal and coming from the heart.

– The GENESIS International Project includes several interpretations of the program (ballet, classical symphony for the philharmonic orchestra, for chamber orchestra, symphonic rock show, symphonic jazz). How did you come to this decision?

– This is also a consequence of the crystallization I mentioned earlier.
During our tours and concerts, which, by the way, have already taken place in 23 countries of the world, we meet and communicate with people new to us – talented artists and writers, musicians and poets, organizers and just people who love music and art in all its forms. In the process of communication, new, sometimes unexpected, ideas often arise, which we will implement in the future.

We have a very versatile team, so we endlessly experiment with the formats of works, not limited to symphonic music only. This approach allows us not only to implement the most daring ideas and decisions, but also to present our music to a wider audience.

Concerto for violin and orchestra “Jacob’s Dream”

– The work on this large-scale project has been going on for more than 15 years. How has it evolved in terms of music and visuals over the years?

– The GENESIS International Project seems to be endless, like the very interest of mankind in the topic of the creation of the world. New ideas and aspects come up all the time. The work is constantly being improved and expanded.

So, for example, in the original version there was no part of “Cain and Abel”. From the musical point, the creation of the “Cain and Abel” part was a very interesting and challenging process for us. It took us a long time to “understand Cain”, “share his feelings” that led to the murder and only after that the inspiration for writing the musical part could come. This part was written last, although chronologically it is the fourth of seven parts now.

Later, we felt that the whole musical description of the creation of the world needed to be framed in a prologue and epilogue, in which there should not be any texts. The prologue introduces us to the mood of the beginning of the creation of the world, and the accompanying epilogue from “Genesis” has only recently been integrated into the symphony.

On March 30 this year, at the Ryazan Philharmonic the premiere of the new extended version of “Genesis” will be performed, supplemented by fugues in the Prologue, parts of “Cain and Abel” and “The Flood”, created with the participation of a talented Moscow composer and our partner Andrey Pospelov, who became a direct participant in our project.

As for the visual design, the wonderful Israeli designer and artist Yaron Shin A.K.A. Jewboy helped us with this. He created a magnificent video art that accompanies the music played by the orchestra on the screen behind him and visually describes the texts of the seven parts of Scripture, which are voiced by the narrator. Yaron Shin created his own artistic language by making video art that works perfectly with different conductors and tempos of the performance of the Poem, and is understandable in any country, regardless of what language its inhabitants speak.

Genesis Rock Show. Photographer Ruslan Dyusonov

– The theme of the creation of the world is relevant and universal all over the world. How do audiences from different countries, different languages and different ages react to the symphonic poem “Genesis”, where the narrator reads biblical texts in their native language?

– It is amazing how the creation of the world described in the Bible is universal and relevant for all peoples, mentalities, languages and eras.

When the first “Genesis” concerts outside of Israel began, producer Nachhum Slutzker and I decided that the texts of the Bible should be read in the language of the country in which the concert takes place. This facilitates the perception of the meaning of the work and gives the audience a complete picture of what is happening on the stage.
The Bible has been translated into about 700 languages, so there are no problems with translation and people hear biblical texts in their native language in their familiar form.

The reaction of listeners is positive in all countries. People like the melody and depth of the work of art, its imagery and musical multilayered system.

After each performance of “Genesis” in different countries, I was always invited to the stage, and again and again I was excited and impressed by the storm of applause, when all the audience, regardless of age, gave a standing ovation to express their admiration.

After the concert, listeners often come up to me to discuss certain issues related to the work, which have just performed. It also gives me great experience and motivation for further creativity.

– Taking into account the fact that many performers, musicians and orchestras from different countries took and take part in the project, did this reflect on the music? I mean in terms of the individual and emotional approach of the performers.

– Even the same piece of music, performed and/or conducted by the same musicians several times, sounds different, develops and plays with new colors.

The performance of musical works by various musicians, orchestras and conductors, of course, influences the musical language of my works.

Besides, sometimes collaboration with different musicians gives an impulse to create new versions of my works. So, for example, following the advice of the famous cellist Misha Maisky, the work “Jacob’s Dream”, originally written as a symphonic poem for narrator and orchestra, was reworked into a cello concerto, and then, at the request of the first performer of the cello version, Sergey Antonov, was supplemented by a solo cadenza between part 2 and part 3. Later, this work received new variations and is also performed as a concerto for violin, viola or oboe with orchestra.


– In what formats can the project be heard now in Russia? What programs are planned for this year?

– It is very pleasant to be appreciated and popular in such a great cultural country as Russia, and I am glad that my music is heard here more and more often. For example, only in March 2023, my violin concerto “Jacob’s Dream” was performed by the virtuoso violinist Graf Murzha in Astrakhan and Makhachkala.
It is with great joy that I look forward to the next three concerts in April 2023, which will be held in Ryazan, Barnaul and Chelyabinsk and they will be completely devoted to the works I have written. The concerts will be conducted by the famous maestro Mikhail Kirchhoff, and the famous cellist Boris Andrianov and the wonderful violinist Graf Murzha will be the soloists.

On June 4, the symphonic rock show “Genesis Rock Show” will take place at the Moscow International House of Music. This piece of music is the result of our collaboration with the wonderful Russian musician Eugeniy Atsapkin. In addition, a number of concerts of this program are planned around the country.

– What concerts are planned in the world in 2023?

– 2023 promises to be the most interesting and eventful year in the history of our project.

Concerts are planned all over the world: in Russia, Europe, South Korea and several countries in South America and Central Asia.

With special trepidation, I look forward to the Genesis Ballet Festival this year, which will be held at the Opera and Ballet Theater in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. At the center of the festival will be my Symphonic Poem “Genesis” and the ballet, which was staged to the music of this work. I am very grateful for this opportunity to the theater director Almazbek Istambayev. Thanks to our cooperation, which began a few years ago with a concert of the Symphonic Poem in Bishkek, this theater has firmly taken a special place in my heart and made possible such a large-scale project as the staging of the ballet “Genesis”.

Ballet Genesis. Photographer Anastasia Atsapkina

– You attach great importance to the distribution of your music on the Internet. In your opinion, what is the role of social networks and the Internet in general? Will the availability of any musical material, including concerts, affect attendance of live performances for the foreseeable future?

– I think we should not worry that the Internet can negatively affect concert attendance. First of all, live performances are about personal communication and the exchange of energy between the performer and the audience, something that cannot be replaced by the best recording.
However, the opportunity to hear the performer’s concert without being able to visit it in person is, in my opinion, wonderful. This erases the boundaries between countries and expands the possibilities of absolutely any person to touch the world of art, wherever they are.

Therefore, our team, together with Eugeniy Atsapkin, who, in addition to joint musical work, is also the project manager, pays a lot of attention to the availability of recordings of works and concerts on the web.

A year ago, the site was launched, where visitors can find all the information about me, about the project as a whole, about works and upcoming concerts.
Several concert recordings have already been released in audio format on all global platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify, and we plan to continue to publish the best concerts as digital releases.

We regularly post videos of concerts on our YouTube channel. These recordings have already been watched by almost 3.5 million people from all over the world, which helps to increase interest in my work and attract new audiences to our concerts.

Alexandra SAYDOVA for