American Friends of the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Nitzan Bartana, Violin
Zubin Mehta, Music Director
Gustavo Dudamel, Conductor
Pinchas Zukerman, Conductor and Violin
Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage
Kirshbaum, Demler, and Assoc., Inc.: Press
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 17, 2008
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, originally The Palestine Orchestra, was founded by BronislawHuberman in 1936, before the State of Israel was even founded (1948). Their first concert, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, was in December, 1936, when Toscanini led “an orchestra of soloists”(First-Chair musicians, who had lost their standing, due to the Nazis.) In 1948, during the War of Independence, Leonard Bernstein led the orchestra in the Negev for 5,000 soldiers. In 1967, Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestra in Israel, during the Six Day War, after which Bernstein returned to conduct Mahler’s “Resurrection Symphony” in Jeruselem. The orchestra presented nightly concerts during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and presented more than 20 concerts during the Gulf War, under the baton of Mr. Mehta.
Zubin Mehta was appointed Musical Director of the Israel Philharmonic in 1969, an appointment which was extended for life in 1981. Leonard Bernstein was named Laureate Conductor in 1988. American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic supports the orchestra through an endowment, so that it can maintain its standards, tour internationally, and grow its educational programs. Gustavo Dudamel first led the Israel Philharmonic in 2005 in Tel Aviv and in 2006 in Haifa, during a rocket attack. Dudamel was born in Venezuela in 1981 and began conducting in 1996. He has won numerous music recognition awards. (Carnegie Hall Program Notes).
Bach (1685-1750): Concerto in D minor for Two Violins and Orchestra, BWV 1043: Vivace, Largo ma non tanto, Allegro, Pinchas Zukerman, Conductor and Violin, Nitzan Bartana, Violin.
Bruch (1838-1920): Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26: Vorspiel: Allegro moderato, Adagio, Finale: Allegro energico, Pinchas Zukerman, Violin.
Brahms (1833-1897): Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98: Allegro non troppo, Andante moderato, Allegro giocoso, Allegro energico e passionate.
For the Bach “Concerto for Two Violins”, Pinchas Zukerman both conducted and played solo violin, along with second violin soloist, Nitzan Bartana. Zukerman is always a mesmerizing figure, brimming with passion and exuberance, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) met its match. This is an orchestra used to performing “under fire”, so Carnegie Hall may have seemed subdued. At times Bach felt like Beethoven, with outsized and fluid rapidity in the first movement, and I could not help but imagine the NYC Ballet dancers onstage, in rapturous lifts, as this Concerto is the score for Balanchine’s 1948 ballet, Concerto Barocco. In this Carnegie concert, Nitzan Bartana was a fascinating musician, an artist to watch, while Maestro Zukerman conducted with his head, all the while creating elongated and seamless duos with Ms. Bartana, who was born in Jeruselem in 1989. The two violinists meshed with precise elegance. The final “Allegro” movement was filled with dynamism, and the Orchestra took on an urgent edge, majestic and thrilling. It was equally thrilling to hear this Concerto from the stage, as I have so often heard it from the pit, during the ballet.
Bruch’s “Violin Concerto” opened with an exquisite and plaintive violin solo, that soon becomes mournful as the full Orchestra joins with stormy, impassioned force. Echoing bass rhythms were notable, as were the persuasive repetitive themes. Bravura bellicosity were the two words I noted in my program, as Zukerman, the solo violinist, drew me in. Maestro Dudamel had obvious chemistry and trust of this Orchestra, and his conducting physicality made him the very image of the iconic conductor, so often found in artists’ renderings of concerts of importance. At this point, I also mentally noted a desire to hear this Orchestra more often, as it performed with such intense “oneness” with the music, as if each musician inhaled and breathed the very passages he/she was playing.
And, if I thought I had already been impressed, it was during the IPO’s interpretation of the Brahms “Fourth Symphony” that I was truly in awe. The first movement’s violin pizzicatos, its gorgeous phrases in shifting tones, and its percussive finale flourish captivated the Stern Hall audience of IPO fans, IPO donors, and New York music aficionados. The second movement opens like morning dew, slow and beckoning. The strings proceed from background bliss to a frenzied, frenetic theme. The third and fourth movements, all Allegro, bring such vibrancy to each orchestral section, that it seemed as if the strings alone could evoke a full orchestral sound. A flute solo toward the finale exemplified optimism and beauty. Kudos to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, and to Conductor/Soloist Pinchas Zukerman for a joyous and memorable evening at Carnegie Hall.