Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

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ISRAEL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA , Israel's major orchestra. The Israel Philharmonic was founded by the violinist Bronislaw *Huberman in 1936 as the Palestine Orchestra, also called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. Huberman envisaged a Jewish orchestra in Palestine as a rescue operation for musicians persecuted by the Nazis, as well as a contribution to cultural life in Palestine. Early in 1934 he began persuading influential people in Palestine and abroad to invest time and money in the venture. Assisted by conductors Issay Dobrowen and William Steinberg, he selected musicians for the orchestra, mainly from Germany, Poland, Holland, Austria, and Hungary. Some instrumentalists came from the United States, and a few were already resident in Palestine. Arturo Toscanini, the eminent Italian conductor, conducted the first concerts in December 1936, in the three main cities, thereby immediately establishing the international rank of the orchestra. For the Jewish community the influx of so many proficient musicians provided a tremendous cultural stimulus as well as a good symphony orchestra. Besides numerous chamber music concerts and recitals in cities and communal settlements, in farming villages and small towns, the opportunity to study all kinds of orchestral instruments now became available on a large scale (see *Music, in Ereẓ Israel). This led to the discovery and cultivation of talents hitherto dormant in the community. In 1948, after the foundation of the State, the orchestra changed its name to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The musicians formed a cooperative, taking over management and financial responsibility. In subsequent years membership expanded to over a hundred players, of whom an increasing number were born and trained in Israel. From 5,000 subscribers in 1936 the number has grown to over 28,000, necessitating the performance of every program 4–5 times, despite the move to larger concert halls in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Together with regular visits to Beersheba, Ein Gev, and other outlying areas, as well as army camps, the number of concerts given each season is around 150 in Israel and another 40 abroad. The income of the orchestra is derived 65 percent from earned income, 20 percent through contributions and gifts, and 15 percent from government and municipal appropriations. Recordings were made for Columbia in 1954–55, and for Decca in 1957–62. In 1967, after the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, Leonard *Bernstein conducted Mahler's Resurrection Symphony on Mt. Scopus. In 1969 Zubin *Mehta was appointed music director. Visits abroad included tours to Cairo and military establishments (1942), a tour to the United States (1951), Europe (1955), around the world (1960), Greece (1959 and 1965), Cyprus (1960), Australia and New Zealand (1966), and a second visit to the United States (1967), and to prestigious European festivals (1971). Between the years 1977 and 1986 the orchestra conducted tours all over the world, including Europe, the U.S., Mexico and Japan. In 1981 Mehta's appointment was extended for life. During these years, the orchestra made recordings for Sony, emi, Deutsche Grammophon, Teldec, and others. Between the years 1987 and 1996 the orchestra made its first visits to Poland, China, and India. In 1991 the orchestra played in Toledo, Spain, with Placido Domingo, and in 1992 it played in Amsterdam in the presence of the Queen of Holland. During the 1991 Gulf War 1991, Isaac *Stern performed with the orchestra with gas masks unforgettably strewn across the stage. In 1996 the orchestra celebrated Mehta's 60th birthday with a tour of the United States. After the mass exodus from the former Soviet Union many musicians from there joined the orchestra. Both local and foreign conductors, soloists, and composers are presented in the orchestra's programs, the scope of which is further broadened by fully staged operas and large choral works. Into the 21st century, the orchestra's face has changed as the older generation retires and new musicians, mainly from the Young Israel Philharmonic, are recruited. In addition, the orchestra initiates new programs aimed to attract new subscribers, especially young audiences.


E. Thalheimer, Five Years of the Palestine Orchestra (1942); Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Association, News (1963– ). website:

[Yohanan Boehm /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]

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Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

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