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The IPO continued its short European tour with a visit to Northern Germany.  From sunny Salzburg, the orchestra landed on a rainy Sunday in Hamburg, the city of Johannes Brahms.  The weather was more like winter in Tel Aviv than summer in Europe; wave after wave of clouds brought rain showers during the 3 days

The first concert was in Kiel at Schloss Kiel Concert hall, home of the Schleswig-Holstein music Festival.

Kiel is a an unattractive port town, due to the destruction during the war but Lubeck, where the IPO appeared the second night, is a beautiful town belonging to the original Hanseatic League.  Its atmosphere is best preserved in the writings of Thomas Mann.  It is still dominated by its churches, its tower gates and the feeling of order and stability.

The program included Beethoven Eighth Symphony, Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky Korsakov and Dvorak’s “From the New World”.

 

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The Salzburg Festival put serious music aside and had some fun celebrating Zubin Mehta’s 50 years of concerts.

On stage with Maestro Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic were soprano Fiorenza Cedolins and the Maestro’s partner in years of opera, the great Placido Domingo.

Zubin and Placido

Instead of Bruckner, Schoenberg and Mahler it was a program of Verdi, Puccini, and Lehar! Placido and Zubin, icons of the music world, were an unbeatable pair on the stage; a picture of health and vitality; each having performed for over 5 decades!

For the “benefizkonzert,” which was open to the public at the unbelievable price of 18Eu, the management of the Festspielehaus brought in hundreds of extra seats.

The standing ovation started before the first note was even played!

The surprise highlight of the afternoon concert came when Zubin relinquished the conductor’s baton to his friend Placido for a performance of “Overture to Forza Del Destino”. Zubin peeked in from the wings as Domingo led the enthusiastic Israel Philharmonic with great confidence.

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Again the IPO made international news in the New York Times with a stunning review of its three Salzburg concerts.

The praises for the programming and the playing were without limits.

The Israel Philharmonic under the direction of Zubin Mehta had the honor of opening the prestigious Salzburg Festival. The theme of the Festival is “Overture Spirituelle” and Judaism was selected to be the first religion to be represented.

Without a doubt, Noam Sheriff’s “Mechaye HaMetim” (Revival of the Dead) was a sensational start to the visit; it was met by a standing ovation of well over 15 minutes! The piece, which is a brilliantly conceived collage of Jewish and Israeli music, tells the story of the Jewish culture in Europe. It was commissioned 30 years ago for the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. “Mechaye HaMetim” is overflowing with traditional Jewish music, recognizable quotations and prayers. The story of the holocaust is central to the piece; the singing of Kaddish brought tears to many of the listeners. The Collegiate Choir, Baritone Thomas Hampson and cantor Carl Heiger participated in the performance. It was quite a difference from the reception the IPO received at last year’s “Proms” when anti-Israeli protester heckled during the concert. The concert received front page coverage by the New York Times with photos of the orchestra, Mehta and Thomas Hampson.

The IPO brought three programs shaped by Maestro Mehta and the Festival Director Alexander Pereira; each program contained Jewish and Israeli content: Schoenberg’s “Kol Nidre”, Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder”, Noam Sheriff’s “Mechaye HaMetim” (Revival of the Dead), Ernest Bloch’s “Avodat HaKodesh” (Sacred Service). Additional pieces were Beethoven “Emporer” Concerto with soloist Rudolf Buchbinder, and an all Brucker program of “Te Deum” and Symphony #7.

Baritone Thomas Hampson, who appeared in Israel in July, played leading roles in the Sheriff, Schoenberg and the Mahler, but his most impressive role was singing the Hebrew texts of “Sacred Service”. (See the IPO site for 2 exclusive
interviews with Hampson.)

Only 200 meters from the orchestra hotel, in the gardens of the Mirabelle Palace, the City of Salzburg erected a memorial to 90 Righteous Austrians who assisted in saving Jews during the Holocaust.

The idea of “Overture Spirituelle” will continue at next year’s Salzburg Festival with the emphasis on Buddhism.

 

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