From Israel, U.S. and Germany, ensemble unites in S.F.

The Israeli Chamber Project is not your usual young chamber ensemble. For starters, its eight core members don’t live in the same place — three live in Israel, three in New York and two in Berlin.

Ronald Caltabiano, artistic director of the Morrison Artists Series at San Francisco State University, is certain the group is going to dazzle the audience at its first performance in San Francisco on Feb. 11, part of the series of free concerts.

“I was hoping to find a high-quality new group, and I found one in the ICP,” said Caltabiano, who discovered the group last year in New York at the Chamber Music America Conference. “The enormous, incredible excitement they brought to their performance made me choke up.”

The musicians originally caught Caltabiano’s attention because they were playing “Martinu’s Chamber Music No. 1,” an unusual piece that includes both piano and harp, an instrument that is seldom played in chamber ensembles.

Israeli Chamber Project will give a free concert at San Francisco State University.

He not only asked the group to play the same composition here in San Francisco, but he also made ICP the centerpiece of the Morrison Series this year and arranged for several of the other programs to feature Martinu, as well.

ICP, joined by guest violist Katie Kadarauch of the San Francisco Symphony, will also play compositions by Bartok, Saint-Saëns and Beethoven. In addition, they will be premiering “Zlila (Diving)” by the young Israeli composer Amit Gilutz, a piece specially commissioned by ICP.

ICP was founded in 2008 by a group of highly talented and accomplished young Israeli classical male and female musicians in their 20s and 30s to bring classic and contemporary chamber music to both central and remote venues in Israel, and to convey something of Israeli culture to the rest of the world.

“Almost all of us have known each other for years, having grown up and played together in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem even before reaching high school,” said pianist Assaff Weisman, the ensemble’s American director. “Then we all went our own ways for our educations.”

All musicians are pursuing solo careers, but they come together as regularly as possible to play and rehearse. They gathered recently to record their first album, which is scheduled to be released in the fall.

The ensemble likes to mix it up, constantly changing instrumental combinations, with anywhere from two to six players performing at a time. Their repertoire is also varied, with the group playing everything from “high classical to lush romanticism through to modernism,” Weisman said.

The musicians believe that their mission is ultimately to “make classical music more accessible to a wider audience,” said Tibi Cziger, ICP’s artistic director and clarinetist. “The relationship with the community and the audience is really important, and chamber music is technically the easiest way. You play in small halls, you can talk to the audience without a microphone. It’s more intimate.”

The ensemble holds concerts, gives lessons and teaches master classes in a number of towns and kibbutzes primarily in Israel’s north and south, including at the Beit Al-Musica conservatory in the Israeli Arab city of Shfaram.

“We have one foot in Israel and one foot abroad,” Cziger said.

Added Weisman, “It’s so important for us to give something back to the place where it all started for us.”

The Israeli Chamber Project will perform 8 p.m. Feb. 11 at San Francisco State University. Information: or call (415) 338-2467.