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The tour ended in beautiful Verona, not that there was much opportunity to enjoy our last day in Italy; we arrived by bus 3 hours before the concert!

The “Spanish” program; Albeniz, Rimski-Korsakov, Debussy and Ravel was a polished success and the orchestra played an encore, Prokofiev’s “Death of Tybalt.”

Most of us didn’t bother with unpacking, re-arranging or even opening suitcases. After the concert suitcases went by truck to the airport in Milano: an amazing pile!

In another 2 hours, the last bus ride to Milano, the flight home, then 5 days to get our feet on the ground before going back to work.

 End of tour!!!

End of tour!!!

Shana Tova!

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The day begins in Rimini very differently than in Israel. The sky lightens over the quiet Adriatic Sea until the sun turns the clouds a golden red and sea a grey-green. In Tel Aviv, we receive the dawn out of the dessert and mountains, the sun hot and massive; already at full strength. The breeze from the beach brought the occasional fragrance of morning croissants from the hotels and I shared the beach with Chinese tourists looking for the magic “digital” moment. As Rimini’s day started, I thought of how in Israel, the last Sunday before Rosh HaShana was already underway.

Last night was the last Mahler Symphony of the tour, and as Zubin left the stage he said, “That’s it! Now do it with someone else!” The Mahler was a staple of the 75th anniversary year with performances starting last October in Tel Aviv, continuing in the US during the February tour, and 7 more times in Europe this summer.

At the Friday evening orchestra dinner, Zubin said his “thanks” to the “non-musical” people of the tour, Avi, Uzi, Yakov, Ofer, and his good-bye to three IPO members who are retiring from the orchestra, Naomi Enoch, Avraham Leventhal and Zeev Dorman.

The last stop is Verona, a 3 hour bus trip and evening concert.

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Her Majesty Queen Sofia attended the Thursday night concert of the Israel Philharmonic at the Auditorio National in Madrid. At intermission she received Zubin Mehta for a private audience, congratulating the Maestro and the orchestra on their visit to Spain.

The program had an especially Spanish “flavor”; Albeniz “Iberia”, De Falla “Noches en Los Jardines de Espana” (“Evenings in the Gardens of Spain”), Debussy “Iberia” and Rimsky-Korsakov “Capriccio Espagnol”. Piano soloist Javier Perianes performed De Falla’s “Noches” with the orchestra.

Her Majesty was greeted by applause from the standing audience and orchestra when she entered the auditorium. She has a personal friendship with Maestro Mehta and is known to members of the IPO as a faithful supporter of the orchestra’s concerts over the years.

Queen Sofia is a great supporter of the arts and sports. She represented Spain in its 1960 Olympics sailing team. Two years ago she attended the Wimbledon Tennis Championship to see Rafael Nadal’s victory, as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup when Spain was crowned champion. Madrid’s major museum of modern art carries her name.

The Queen who is a member of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty, is wife of Spain’s King Juan Carlos I.

Zubin with Queen Sofia of Spain

Zubin with Queen Sofia

“Are you coming to see the Amati bass at the Palacio Real?”

I didn’t know of any famous bass in Madrid; I’ve been there dozens of times… an Amati? It’s the rarest of double basses from the 17th century! It seemed unbelievable. “Skeptical” only began to describe my feelings. I was sure we would find some broken-down Spanish imitation. It’s the end of the tour; I’m tired, I need some time for shopping and some sleep before the concert.

“Come on, here are the photographs.”

The photos from the internet weren’t too convincing.
Against my better judgment, and perhaps as a compromise to Eran’s youthful enthusiasm, he is about half my age, I agreed.

We set off for the Palace, and while I waited in line for tickets, Eran went to the information desk. “We want to see the Amati contrabass.”

“Yes, the King has a collection of Stradivarius violins.”

“No, we want to see the bass. It’s an Amati and I have photographs.”

“Well, ask for a ticket to the picture gallery.”

At the head of the line we asked for “Picture Gallery”.

“Only Stradivarius…”

“No, we don’t want violins! We want the CONTRABAJO! (using the Spanish pronunciation.)
“No, there are “Picture Gallery” tickets only: special guided tour…this part of the Palace is not open to the public!”
Eran went back to the information desk. The lady went to the guard and asked when the next guided tour is in English. “They can come back at two o’clock.”

“Excuse me Madam, but we are musicians from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra…Zubin Mehta!! We are playing for your Queen this evening and we can’t come back at two o’clock!!”

That did the trick! She picked up the phone to the Museum director. After a hurried explanation, she asked us to wait 2 minutes. The call came back; the information office was closed, “Please, come with me.”

We followed her into the museum, past the Chinese tourists, behind those thick red ropes that block doorways, through silent galleries, down a corridor that was being renovated, stopping at a double door with the King’s crest. “We wait here for a moment.”

A guard appeared and he pulled out a key 30 cm. long which looked like it had last been used in the Inquisition. We were let in to the private instrument collection of the King: harps, pianos, guitars, string instruments, and in the second room…. Wow!…lay an absolutely gorgeous double bass looking more Amati than I could ever imagined! The bass is preserved in a large glass case. The photos say it all, but there’s no way to convey the feeling of being in the presence of a genuinely rare and especially beautiful instrument. Unlike the King’s “Strad” quartet which is taken out every month for concerts, it never gets played…such a pity!

We had 5 minutes to see the bass and photograph before being escorted out! What an honor!

Eran’s perseverance and his quick thinking really paid off in a big way!

Last night’s concert at the Enescu Festival was even more packed than the first concert; and with good reason: a great program and a great soloist! The orchestra opened with Enescu’s, “Overture on Romanian Folk Tunes.” Yefim Bronfman then joined Zubin and the IPO in Brahm’s Second Piano Concerto. “Fima” also played an encore, the Second Liszt-Paganini Etude. After intermission the orchestra returned to play Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

Enescu Festival- TV, Radio and Concert

Enescu Festival- TV, Radio and Concert

In this busy week, we have three days of flights with concerts on the same day: Paris to Bucharest, Bucharest to Madrid and Madrid to Rimini. It’s like flying three times to Europe, and while in the evening keeping a full concert schedule.

crowded airplane

crowded airplane

In my immediate surroundings on the plane, there was a variety of activities to fill the time: embroidery (watch out for Dalit’s needle), reading (Teddy is reading in Romanian with a dictionary on his lap), movies on the computer (Nir and his Mac), chess (Marcel and Paulina), sleeping (head back-mouth open) , orchestra politics and/or gossip (Adi and Merrill), and of course announcements about the evenings’ rehearsal before the concert (groans) and the suitcase delivery upon landing (“take your own bag if you want to be certain to get it!) The prize for using airplane time wisely is Gadi who practices on an electronic sax using playback and earphones!

Marcel and Paulina playing chess, and Gadi is practicing

Marcel and Paulina playing chess, and Gadi is practicing

Lunch at the hotel started at 15:00, and the surprise of the day is that Zubin decided to cancel the evening rehearsal before the concert; now that’s a great dessert!

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Just as we landed in Bucharest, I turned to my neighbor Dalit, “Exactly one week from today we’ll be getting on plane for the flight home!”

After Saturday night’s concert in Luxembourg at the Salle der Concerts Grand-Duchesse Josephine-Charlotte (The Philharmonie) we bused over the French border to catch a fast train from Metz to Paris. We arrived at the hotel near the Arc de Triomphe by lunch time but were already in rehearsal at the Salle Pleyel by 1800.

The concert ended with another incredible standing ovation for the Mahler Symphony. The soloist was Vadim Repin in the Bruch Violin Concerto. Our one day in the French Capitol was a real squeeze for visits to family and friends, and sight seeing was out of the question.

At 06:45 the next morning, the buses left for Charles DeGaulle Airport and the charter flight to Bucharest for the first concert at the Enescu Festival. The Sala Mare Palatului normally accommodates 2,500 people, but it was standing-room only for the IPO’s first concert.

The aisles were packed with music lovers who wanted to hear the concert and hundreds of people stood for the entire concert to hear Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. Again, Vadim Repin was soloist in the all Tchaikovsky program including the Violin Concerto, “Andante Cantabile” from the second string quartet and the Fourth Symphony.

Three great concerts in three very short days!

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I have never seen a cheering audience jump to its feet quicker than the audience at the Gergiev Festival in Rotterdam. The Thursday evening performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony was one of the most energetic performances of the Israel Philharmonic and the Dutch audience responded to the excitement.

The next morning we were off for a day of trains to Luxembourg; one hour to Brussels, a two hour stop, then an additional three hours to the little kingdom which is home to the European Community. In Brussels there was time for a coffee or Belgium Beer; some players even made a visit to the Grand Place.

Shabbat was spent wandering around Luxembourg before the evening concert.

As Maestro Mehta said, “At this point, I don’t know what city I’m in when I wake up.” One solution is sleeping with the tour book open to the right page, preferably under the pillow.

The cities are going by in a blur; Bonn, Cologne, Milano, then bus to Torino for a concert at the Agnelli Building, the old Fiat Factory. Today, the orchestra flew to Rotterdam for an evening concert at the “Doelen.”

For anyone who had hald an hour, Turin was beautiful; Piazza San Carlo, Piazza della Repubblica and “La Madama,” and with vast pedestrian malls like via Garibaldi in the older part of the city.

We said goodbye to our sax players Gan and Yanir, but will meet up with them again in Verona for the last “Bolero”.

Yesterday there were Palestinian flags outside of the hall and today we already have warnings about a possible demonstration.

 

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The third week of the European Festival tour is underway: 13 concerts in 14 days. While staying at the hotel in Bonn, we did a run-out to Cologne, 50 minutes down the Rhein River. Zubin spared us a rehearsal before the performance, but we were all guests for a short beer party immediately after the concert. The beer was the local favorite, a “kolsch:” light but strong!

The party did not end at night: the next morning at Bonn airport, Zubin stocked up on 100 cups of Ben and Jerry’s coconut chocolate ice cream for the in-flight service to Milano. It was a great improvement over our Lithuanian airline chartered service with intermittent toilets and no overhead space.

Unfortunately for the orchestra, we landed at lunch time for the Milano baggage handlers which meant a lost hour by the conveyor belts. We made up the hour by standing through lunch at the hotel… not enough chairs…and what a weird hotel! It was the back-lot set for Fellini’s “La Strada:” isolated, silent, and seemingly uninhabited until the arrival of the orchestra; early 60’s décor, somewhere between a government hospital and an Olympic village. Quick sleep and off to the concert.

The Teatro Degli Arciboldi was built 12 years ago to accommodate the company of the La Scala Opera House during the 2 year renovation of their 18th century theater in the downtown. Since then it has held its place as a concert hall, theater and auditorium for shows. The concert of Liszt and Mahler was broadcast live on Italian radio and was attended by the Israeli ambassador his wife, Mr. and Ms. Gideon Meir. They were guests backstage at intermission, a very welcome demonstration of support for Maestro Mehta and the orchestra!

 

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The Israel Philharmonic dedicated its 9/11 tour concert in Bonn, Germany to the memory of Herman Sandler, Former Chairman of the Board of the American Friends of the IPO. Herman’s life was cut short 10 years ago in the attacks on the Twin Towers. Zubin Mehta spoke for all the musicians when he recalled Herman’s generosity and enthusiasm for the IPO.

As is often the case, the orchestra was welcomed by the director of the Beethovenfest. We were reminded that this summer is the 40th anniversary of the first visit of the Philharmonic to Germany, the first concert having taken place in Bonn.

At intermission of the concert which was held in the Beethovenhalle, Zubin was presented with the Furtwangler Award for life work in music. It was presented by Peter Jonas, Zubin’s friend and general director during his years at the Bayrischen State Opera.

The morning began with an early flight from Dresden into rainy Bonn. Because of the early arrival, most of the hotel rooms were still not ready. One by one over the next 2 hours, first musicians with critical parts in the evening’s concert, then senior members and finally the new members and extras, received their keys rooms became available.

 

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