Carnegie Concert Celebrates Israel Philharmonic’s 75th Anniversary
At a sold out performance at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, on its Seventy Fifth Anniversary tour, offered a varied and vibrant musical program. Despite a smattering of protesters chanting opposite the auditorium, inside, the music was magic. The program began with the North America orchestral premiere of Avner Dorman’s “Azerbaijani Dance,” a piece combining the excitement of Central Asian melodic themes with percussion, winds, and playing of the piano – from its inside. Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with Yefim Bronfman as soloist, completed the first half. The pianist, who made his debut with the IPO in 1974, has an integrated, complex personal journey, not uncommon in the Jewish/Israeli experience, combining Israeli/American/Uzbekistan influences. His rendition of the Liszt’s Concerto No. 2 in A was vibrant and powerful, and provided a wonderful platform on which he displayed his extraordinary talents.
Following a wonderfully congenial and conversational intermission, the orchestra’s program concluded with a striking rendition of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. The magical Maestro Mehta had the house mesmerized, with the orchestra reaching a zenith in an emotional and colorful performance. Throughout the Mahler, a long and challenging composition, the maestro conducted not only with baton, but with entire body and soul. His control was complete: the orchestra owned the Mahler; Mehta mastered the musicians. As he invigorated the musical whole in the great roil of the finale, he enabled the orchestra to complete its program with a controlled explosion of chorale fireworks. The presentation was nothing short of triumphant.
Gathering at the Gala: Many concert goers continued the celebration at the Plaza hotel dinner where the warmth and camaraderie were palpable. Ambassadors and bankers, financiers and celebrities, politicians and professors, leaders from throughout the Jewish and cultural worlds – and the stars of the evening, the orchestra’s musicians – table hopped, greeting one another with warmth and enthusiasm.
From the podium, David Hirsch, AFIPO President, and Gala chairwoman Lauren Veronis welcomed the orchestra’s supporters, recalling the IPO’s history. Conductor Zubin Mehta thanked his musicians for “pouring their hearts out” and called upon The American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to assist in raising the roughly 30 percent budget shortfall not met by government funding and ticket sales. Saying “we haven’t finished!” he reminded all that 50 years with the orchestra was “not even half way” to the traditional time allotment. His call to continue – in virtually perfect Yiddish – “tzu a hunderdt un tzvanszik“ received an especially warm reception.
Guests dined on an array of delectable cuisine that blended the various traditions of Israel. The menu included a selection of Middle Eastern appetizers, served family – perhaps “kibbutz” is a better description – style. The “flancon” entrée, a festive beef specialty worthy of a Yiddishe bubie’s European kitchen, must have brought culinary memories to many tongues. The array of sweet treats that concluded the repast combined European and Sephardic tastes, including fig tartlettes and cocoa dusted chocolates. Oranges and roses, major export commodities of the Jewish State seventy five years ago, decorated the tables.
At an exuberant party a floor below the Gala, the Young Leadership, known as the Associates, gathered several hundred for cocktails and dinner. At this party the music was definitely hot – or what some might once have called “cool.”
“Culture has no boundaries,” noted Joel Lion, Consul for Media Affairs at the Consulate of Israel. “No matter where you are in the world people are listening, at the same time, to the music of Beethoven, Bach, and Ben Chaim. These sounds bring us together and calm our hearts. Like a symphony, we need to combine our different voices in order to reach harmony.”
The Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), founded in 1936, is the musical voice of 8 million Israelis and a gift to the world of music lovers. In 2011 it celebrates its 75th anniversary, and has during those years welcomed major artists from around the world. The orchestra plays a full season throughout Israel, and is a veteran touring group with a diverse repertoire.
“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Beast…” wrote poet William Congreve in 1697 “that things inanimate have mov’d….”