In early 2019, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, the premiere classical music institution in the Jewish state and one of the most innovative orchestras in the world, played the last few beats of a symphony at the University of Michigan. The music stopped, the band took a bow, and the curtain fell.
The Israel Philharmonic has yet to play another note in the United States since.
Just one year later, the COVID-19 pandemic would make landfall in the United States and Israel, canceling cultural events and disrupting international travel. The Philharmonic—a vital cultural link between the American Jewish community and Israel—was unable to return.
That will change this fall, when the Philharmonic returns to the United States for a nationwide tour to offer listeners the sounds of Israel and the Western canon—and a chance to rekindle their link to one of Israel’s most storied cultural institutions.
The 10-stop tour includes a performance in Orange County at the Renée & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa on Nov. 3.
The Orange County Committee Chairs are Madaline and Stephen Gordon and The Gordon Foundation, and the Co-Chairs are Susan & Henry Samueli, Sue & Ralph Stern, Nancy & Irving Chase, Adrienne & Rick Matros, Aviva & Fred Forster, Melanie & Hal Altman, Tiffany Hill & Dmitry Chebotarev, Irit & Moti Ferder, Roger Friedman, Sharon & Richard Gabriel, Michelle & David Horowitz, Carolyn & William Klein, the Lewis I. Brunswick and Rebecca Matoff Foundation, and Leslie & Scott Seigel.
The orchestra will make additional stops in California—in Palm Desert, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Stanford—before heading east to perform in Ohio and Florida. The tour will culminate with a performance at one of the nation’s preeminent venues—Carnegie Hall—in New York City on Nov. 14.
The performances will include selections from the works of Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Gustav Mahler, and Paul Ben-Haim. Each stop will also include galas, benefit dinners, and exclusive events with the musicians.
Danielle Ames Spivak, CEO of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO), said that the tour offers far more than just the chance to listen to world-class musicians at work.
“The Israel Philharmonic is an important link between the American and Israeli Jewish communities—and a cultural treasure of which both should be proud,” said Spivak. “Through its gift of music, the orchestra can help American audiences rediscover their connections to the Jewish state and demonstrate that, after a difficult few years, artistry transcends all.”
Much has changed since the Philharmonic last toured the United States.
Zubin Mehta, who conducted the orchestra for more than 50 years, retired in October 2019. One year later, the orchestra would name a new musical director, Lahav Shani.
Shani, 29, is one of the youngest directors of a major orchestra in the world and the first director of the Israel Philharmonic to be born in Israel. Shani studied at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, Tel Aviv University, and gained notoriety after winning the Gustav Mahler International Competition in Bamberg in 2013. In 2018, he was appointed director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra—the youngest in the orchestra’s history. He made his conducting debut with the Israel Philharmonic in 2013.
Shani, Spivak said, is a rising star in the classical music world, often likened to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’s Gustavo Dudamel.
“The Israel Philharmonic is privileged to have a conductor as charismatic, accomplished, and visionary as Lahav,” said Spivak. “He is an excellent cultural ambassador for Israel who will inspire and uplift audiences from Costa Mesa to Carnegie Hall.”
In addition to the performances, AFIPO is hosting a series of galas associated with its performances in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and New York. Proceeds raised by the Galas will help support the orchestra and youth music initiatives in the United States and Israel.
For more information about concert and gala tickets, visit afipo.org.
Benjamin Raizel is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.