Israeli trio with brio

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Roll over, Beethoven! The Jerusalem Lyric Trio is coming to town, but classical music fans hoping to hear stately 18th-century chamber pieces had best look elsewhere. This trio performs mostly commissioned works, all based on the Hebrew Bible and other strictly Jewish sources.

Moreover, when lovers of classical music think of trios, they generally think violin, piano and cello, the most common instrumentation for the form. But the decidedly uncommon Jerusalem Lyric Trio consists of flutist Wendy Eisler-Kashy, soprano Amalia Ishak and pianist Allan Sternfield.

The group will play on Saturday, March 27, at San Francisco’s Palace of Legion of Honor, the following day at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, and on Monday, March 29, at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

The trio has been performing throughout the world since first forming in 1995. The repertoire, in addition to familiar classics, includes works inspired by the city of Jerusalem, Israeli landscapes and the Holocaust, as well as popular songs in Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino.

The upcoming concerts feature works commissioned by the trio and composed by Moshe Denburg, Dina Smorganski, Aharon Harlap and Meira Warshauer.

Eisler-Kashy, the founder and leader of the Jerusalem Lyric Trio, is a native of the Bay Area, having grown up in Marin County. The upcoming concerts mark her first local performances with her trio, and she’s looking forward to the homecoming.

“I have very fond feelings for my upbringing in Marin,” says Eisler-Kashy. “It’s a beautiful area, a paradise for kids.” She is the daughter of the late Arthur Eisler, a well-known Marin piano teacher, and the sister of theatrical producer Chuck Eisler. She graduated from Tamalpais High School and went on to study music at San Francisco State before moving to New York to launch her career as a flutist.

In 1975, Eisler-Kashy made aliyah to Israel, a surprising move given that her upbringing included little to no Jewish or Zionist education. She went on to serve as principal flutist with the Jerusalem Symphony, marry an Israeli and rear three children, now grown.

Her greatest artistic satisfaction, however, has been the JLT. “We are basically classical musicians,” she says, “but we are uniquely Israeli. There is no other trio like us.”

And though there’s no place like home, for Eisler-Kashy that word is a bit tough to define. “After many years here [in Israel], I am still very much an American,” she says. “I decided to make my home in Israel, but it’s not easy living here. This is a country at war.”

These days she finds herself wondering what possible role the artist plays in society when buses explode and children die in the streets.

“That influences everyone’s lives,” notes Eisler-Kashy, “especially people involved in culture. We’re under siege. This [trio] is not an essential of life, so it’s very difficult. However, I’m still here. I didn’t run away.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.