Mandolin in Modern Dance

Mandolin in modern dance

By Jean Comeau

Version française

On the Internet, even the most demanding music connoisseur has the opportunity to find something that will satisfy his taste. But, unfortunately, the web offers altogether the worst alongside the best. Sometimes, democracy and sheer madness walk hand in hand. Might you be lucky enough, you will find a pearl like this one.



I probably watched this video fifteen or twenty times and, every time I did, I wondered about what made such an impression on me. Why are we sometimes literally seduced by a performance? Of course, every one of us has his own answer but I believe that, for many, the secret lies in this perfect combination of precious gems that forms some kind of exquisite diadem.


Let’s pause for a moment to find out what it means for an artist to perform in such a way. We must go beyond our first impression to understand the power of an artistic creation. First of all, let’s be clear: Jacob Reuven is a prodigy.


Born in Israël in 1976, Jacob Reuven started learning the mandolin when he was 8 years old. In no time, he reached the international scene playing with orchestras such as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Israeli Sinfonietta, Israel Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Twenty First Century Ensemble. He played under the baton of Zubin Mehta, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Antonio Pappano, Mendi Rodan et Zsolt Nagy.


It’s easy to imagine the enormous amount of work required to be able to play with such virtuosity. Creating a musician like this one requires a life long struggle. And the life of a music student is not always simple, especially when you play a soloist instrument like the mandolin. Such a student cannot count on orchestras, like other instrumentalists, to offer him a job. The mandolinist is essentially a soloist and he must never forget this reality at every step of his training. The loneliness of the soloist whose sound alone must fill the entire space is obvious in this video.


Here is how Jacob Reuven describes his own work.


To learn more about this exceptional artist, we can take a look at his website.


Of course, such an artist must play on a very special instrument that gives him the opportunity of exploiting all the shades of his talent. Jacob Reuven plays on an instrument made by the Luthier Arik Kerman. Kerman’s mandolins are unique in the world. In fact, we can say that we have two mandolins in one: a smaller mandolin lies inside a bigger one. Such a design allows having an instrument with remarkable power. Arik Kerman made true the dream of every Luthier since the eighteenth century.



We always deplore the mandolin’s lack of power; in the Kerman mandolin, there is more wood so the sound is louder; more wood generates more low harmonics, so the sound is rounder, richer. By the way, Jacob Reuven is not the only renowned mandolinist playing on a Kerman instrument. Among others, we have Tzur Weisel.


and, of course, the star of the mandolin, Avi Avital

    Vivaldi/ "Summer" ,RV 315 3rd Movement.


Vivaldi/ "Summer" ,RV 315 3rd Movement.

We can appreciate all the richness of these instruments by listening to the Kerman Mandolin Quartet. Jacob Reuven, first mandolin and the three other musicians play on Kerman instruments: two mandolins, a mandola and a mandocello. (Mari Carmen Simon : mandolin ; Fabio Gallucci : mandola ; Vincent Beer-Demander : mandocello). Note that each member of this quartet comes from a different country; in addition to Reuven, born in Israël, Simon is Spanish, Galluchi, Italian, and Beer-Demander is French.


Mandolin in Modern Dance also presents the exceptional work of a choreographer, Sally Anne Friedland. Classical dancer, she was born in South Africa. In 2002, she founded the Drama Dance Company in Israel. As we can see in the video, her work is very modern, and we can even say, quite daring. The dancers and the mandolinist communicate so intimately that we have the feeling we are watching an improvisation session. But the final result is much too perfect; nothing is left to chance. In the following video, Sally Anne Friedland talks about her work.


Those are the doors Mandolin in Modern Dance opened up for me. In a little less than four minutes and a half, we can observe a whole world of virtuosity, of mixed feelings and we are allowed to meet some of the most exceptional artists. Now you know why I call such an experience “a perfect combination of precious gems that forms some kind of exquisite diadem”.


Jean Comeau for Mando Montreal

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