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Performing in Baku

The Israel Philharmonic (then called the Palestine Orchestra) was once a frequent guest at the Cairo Opera house and even toured to Beirut!  But now, for the first time in our “modern” history, the IPO has returned to a Moslem country, Azerbaijan, performing in Baku.

Two concerts, conducted by Zubin Mehta, were presented at the Rostropovich Festival; the first with violinist Pinchas Zukerman performing the Brahms Violin Concerto, and the second with Rudolf Buchbinder playing Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto for piano. The orchestra also performed Mahler’s First Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.

Even though the musicians were given the sternest warnings by our security people, IPO members climbed the Guz Qalasi, “Maidens’ Tower,” in the old city, visited the Shirvanshahs Palace, and ate the traditional Turkish and Azeri dishes.

Maiden's Tower Baku

The “Icherishersher,” old walled city, is a World Heritage Site with a rich history reaching back to times when the local people were Zoroasterians and worshiped the Sun and Fire.  Since the 19th century, Baku, on the Caspian Sea, has been the center of the oil industry. After their independence from the Soviet Union, much of the oil wealth has been channeled into building projects and preserving the past.

renovated Baku

The concerts were performed at the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Palace, named after today’s leader.  The hospitality of the Azeri people was outstanding. The Israeli Embassy hosted a “Kabalat Shabbat” and the local organizers treated us to a fabulous dinner after the first concert.

Zukerman and Buchbinder celebrating after concert