Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra of Exiles

By Masha Leon

Published November 16, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Pianist Yuja Wang Wows Crowd at Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Concert at Carnegie Hall

Zetst zikh avek!” — “Sit down!”— said Zubin Mehta, music director and conductor for life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, in beautifully articulated Yiddish at the American Friends of the IPO dinner, held at The Plaza. The dinner followed the IPO’s October 25 Carnegie Hall concert.

Zubin Mehta
Karen Leon
Zubin Mehta

“We are today the positive face of Israel,” he continued in English, addressing the 450 guests — who raised $1.8 million — seated at candlelit tables. “Israel has many institutions to be proud of — universities and scientific institutes. But they, unfortunately, cannot travel. We will be giving a New Year’s Eve concert in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and then going all over China. We have been going to China since 1993 [and] the first time, we played in a little hall with Itzhak [Perlman].” Recalling his puzzlement at having a television camera present at the time, Mehta chuckled and said, “We were told it was only a local broadcast — just 200 million people!”

Lauren Veronis and her husband, John Veronis, lauded their co-host, Adrienne Arsht, for underwriting the concert. Veronis also thanked a roster of “fellow underwriters,” including Rita and Charles Bronfman; Ingeborg and Ira Leon Rennert; Lily Safra; Alfred Moses, ambassador to Romania, and his wife, Fern Schad; Judith and Burton Resnick; Rochelle and David Hirsch; Shulamit and Chaim Katzman, Penny and Claudio Pincus, Jo Carole and Ronald Lauder, andSara and Charles Fabrikant. She acknowledged “Terre Blair Hamlisch, who with her late husband, Marvin Hamlisch, co-chaired the event last year and was meant to co-chair it this year.”

Having changed, from the form-fitting sleeveless green velvet gown that she wore at her Carnegie Hall performance, into a black strapless dress, pianist Yuja Wang was warmly greeted by the festive dinner crowd. She was still aglow from the standing ovations she received earlier that evening at Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium. Her unaccompanied piano encores — a rendition of “Figaro” from Rossini’s “Barber of Seville,” and the “Habanera” from Bizet’s “Carmen” — were astonishing. Wang had just returned from Israel, where she performed nine concerts and opened the IPO’s 2012–13 season under the baton of Mehta.

“This orchestra is not just an orchestra,” Veronis said, “it is the cultural heart of Israel, and for many around the world the only visible presence of Israel.… Last year the orchestra played more than 150 concerts around the world — the U.S., Europe, Australia, back to China, Korea, Thailand… and is about to tour South America. Ten days ago, Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, conferred the presidential medal of distinction on Zubin. Among his comments, Peres said, ‘You came here to conduct an orchestra, but you became the conductor of our hearts….. I cannot think of anyone else who has offered such a unique contribution to our country, to our people, to our mood. You have shown leadership. A leader is born to allay the spirit and hopes of the people. That is what you did.”

‘Orchestra of Exiles”: A Tribute to Heroic Visionary Violinist Bronislaw Huberman

I finally got to see the completed “Orchestra of Exiles,” a documentary byJosh Aronson about violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who founded the Palestine Orchestra. The orchestra’s first concert, in Israel in 1936, was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. In 1948, it became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Leonard Bernstein. As Aronson told me during an interview in October 2011, when the film was a work-in-progress, “Huberman saved 1000 Jewish lives — 60 to 70 musicians and their families. This was a Jew saving Jews!”

Huberman was born in Czestochowa, Poland. A musical child prodigy, he visited Palestine for the first time in 1929 and, according to filmmaker Aronson, “felt he found a home.” The film is chock-full of cameos, music and historical tidbits that should delight anyone who savors classical music.

I asked Aronson about the Kulturband, established with Goebbels’s blessing for Jewish musicians only. I told Aronson that “watching the film’s progressive march of Nazi edicts — not only against Jews in general, but their star Jewish musicians — you almost want to shout at the screen: ‘Get out! While you can,” He replied, “The Kulturband was formed because Jewish musicians were integral to Germany’s music landscape.” And yet, its creator “ended up in Thereisenstadt.” “You can’t do business with the devil,” Aronson said. “The alternative — who knew? They all thought it would blow over.”

When I asked Aronson what his hope for the film was, he said: [“After its theatrical run, it will hopefully have a long life in educational settings—universities—to see the actions of Huberman, who said ‘No!’ to concerts in Germany, [desert] his most lucrative audience . He walked away from half his professional income, on a dime, cutting all ties to Germany, as did Toscanini. “

Scheduled to reopen in New York on November 16 at The Village Quad, “Orchestra of Exiles” is traveling the country with its final screening in April 2013, in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here:
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.