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Whenever I finish a tour blog I realize that there is no way to convey the hardships, small and large, that we share; the separation from family, friends, hobbies, familiar surroundings, the endless hours spent in lines at hotels and airports, the loneliness of hotel rooms, the frustration of not being able to read a menu or order a meal in a foreign language….it certainly looks exciting to travel the world, playing concerts in great concert halls with Zubin, but at the end of the day, work is work and it is certainly no summer camp.

With that in mind, one meal will stick in my memory from the Far East tour…here recorded in photos. Imagine a street restaurant in Xiamen; 3 tables, a Styrofoam fish tank, charcoal grill. Our waitress greets us, pulls a fish out for us to inspect, weighs our dinner, then proceeds to knock it out and gut it on the floor.

In 4 minutes he’s roasting over charcoals, and 8 minutes later submersed in soup with mushrooms, potatoes, zucchini, radishes and hot peppers. When he arrives at the table, our fish friend is boiling away in a vegetable broth, bottom pan is water, second pan in charcoals and the top is our fish. We go at it with chop sticks!

….a true China experience!

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The IPO completed its tour of the Far East with visits to Xiamen and Zhuhai in the south of China. Zhuhai sits between Macau and Hong Kong.

A bridge will soon connect the three cities making Zhuhai the center of this financial/vacation/gambling powerhouse. It is also a lovely area with long beaches and a promenade along the sea that stretches forever; it’s a bit like Florida.

From the concert hall we could see Macau across the river. After the last concert the orchestra was invited by the local presenter to celebrate 20 years of visits in China. In 1994 we were first in China with Yitzhak Perlman in Beijing and Shanghai. Many of us still remember the crowds of bicycles and construction sites which were to become roads and buildings.

At the reception the Mayor of Zhuhai spoke of their cultural aspirations and then a hand print of Zubin Mehta was made for the concert hall.

From Zhuhai, we went by ferry to Hong Kong airport. The flight was straight home with a little delay of 4 hours; 2 days off then back to rehearsing for the IPO Gala at the Hilton.

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The IPO landed in Beijing at midnight, arrived at the hotel at 1:30, but we awoke to beautiful clear blue skies.

We left Singapore in 30C. heat and arrived in 3 C. cold! The air was unusually clean thanks to Beijing’s factories being closed during the 3 day APEC conference.

Instead of performing at The Great Hall of the People, we performed at a real concert hall, the National Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to the concert hall, the building also houses an opera house and a recital hall. It was built the year of the Olympics, but it was our first concert there.

Soloist was young Chinese clarinetist Tony Shen in Weber’s Concertino op. 26. Not only was young Tony excited by working with Maestro Mehta, the audience was so excited by the presence of the Maestro, that the ushers used lasers to discourage the use of cell phones to photograph the concert.

Another media star was our latest addition to the viola section Wenting Kang who is returning to China for the first time as an IPO member. She was interviewed by CCTV before the concert. Tomorrow, when the orchestra flies to Xiamen, she will be returning to her family home for a 2 day visit.

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The Israel Philharmonic arrived in Singapore to perform for the first time. In 1978, Singapore was just a stop-over on the way to Australia for the IPO, today it is an essential concert venue celebrating “Asian Tiger’s” thirst for culture and admiration for Zubin Mehta.

The visit was under the patronage of the Sassoon Family; Victor and Michelle in conjunction with the Israeli Embassy. Orchestra members were treated to a reception at the Sassoon home.

The morning of the concert we made a short tour of the city; Singapore Island is only the size of Tel Aviv and its suburbs, but it concentrates an incredible economy based on trade, finance and shopping! The city-state pays 80% of medical costs; tuition to university, provides public housing for singles and young couples, crime rate is 0 and income tax is tiny. Four languages are spoken and there is an atmosphere of absolute religious and ethnic tolerance. It was quite an eye-opener!

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The IPO and Zubin Mehta joined up with Maurice Bejart and the Tokyo Ballet for 3 performances of Beethoven Ninth Symphony at the NHK auditorium.

After the initial confusion on stage, everyone got down to work rehearsing the music and choreography.

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Israel Philharmonic tours more than any other major orchestra. We maintain an international reputation, we serve the diplomatic interests of Israel, and our Music Director has audiences around the world.

But how does it affect family life? When you join the IPO, you know it’s going to be tough on children and spouses; especially for couples in the orchestra. There have been “legendary” couples: Teddy and Talia; Toli and Liza, Shelly and Micha, Saida and Adi, who have each raised 3 and even 4 children while taking on the full orchestra load of touring.

A new couple was added to the group; Genia and Polina Yehudin and for the Far East tour; they are a trio with their 15 month old daughter Marta. Marta is a good traveler, and likes people!  She puts up with all the trains, buses, planes, waiting in lines and hotel life; just like her Mom, who is soloist in the Vivaldi Concerto and her Dad who is principal clarinet.

This week was full of traveling: after leaving Fokuoka, the orchestra traveled by bullet train for concerts in Osaka, Mei, Nagoya and back to Tokyo.

The next project is Beethoven Ninth Symphony with the Tokyo Ballet at the NHK.

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Shabbat evening in Osaka was marked with Kiddush while listening to the IPO concert of Schubert and Mahler recorded on Wednesday and broadcast by the NHK.

Afterwards, we went for neighborhood sushi. We stayed at a particularly good hotel, rated number 1 in Osaka by Trip Advisor.

The conversation at breakfast involved the amenities and gadgets in the room: Italian coffee maker and Japanese tea service, bathtub with television and water-proof remote, shower that included full-body spray, electronic curtains and a toilet with functions controlled by push-button: spray, bidet, pressure (?), oscillate (?), power deodorizer…and I imagine all the combinations.

We were on endless Shinshaibashi shopping street with every brand name and store you can dream of: Prada to simplest udon soup.

Rehearsal and concert in the evening

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On Thursday, the IPO flew from Tokyo to the southern city of Fukuoka; a one hour 40 minute flight.

A rehearsal on Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Vivaldi was planned for 17:00 before the 19:00 concert.  We arrived at 14:00 to hear the good news that the rehearsal was canceled! Still there was barely enough time to nap before the concert… but still, the concert was a great success!

The audience wouldn’t let Mehta leave the stage and we played 2 encores; the “Death of Tybalt” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Julliet, and “Intermezzo” from Cavalleria Rusticana. The audience was still applauding by the stage door as the orchestra returned to the buses.

For a late evening snack in Fukuoka, you can always go down to the river to sit outside for a ramen soup (chicken noodle) and barbeque plate.

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The Israel Philharmonic finished a week of concerts in Tokyo with programs at Suntory Hall, Ikebukuru and the NHK Concert Hall. Between rehearsals and concerts, players toured Nikko, the ancient capitol of Japan, Kamakura with the largest Buddha in the world, repaired instruments with local craftsmen, practiced in the hotel rooms, or rested for the rougher part of the Japan tour: Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, Mie, and back to Tokyo.

At the NHK concert, Zubin signed the first page of the Tsunami Violin commemoration book along with the IPO players who are performing on the quartet in Japan. The emperor of Japan will sign the closing page. The NHK recorded the concert of Schubert and Mahler for later broadcast.

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“The Israel Philharmonic with its music director Zubin Mehta is Israel’s greatest cultural asset!” a wonderful compliment from the Israeli Ambassador to Japan, Ruth Kahanoff who attended the IPO concert in Suntory Hall.

Sunday afternoon’s concert of Vivaldi, Mozart and Tchaikovsky was simply a triumphant opening for the orchestra’s visit to Japan. Long after the IPO performed “The Death of Tybalt” as an encore, the audience remained in the hall applauding and hoping for another bow by Maestro Mehta…he didn’t disappoint them.

Immediately after the concert members of the orchestra, the impresario’s staff, diplomats, and the Indian Ambassador were guests of the Israeli embassy on the 36th floor of the ANA Intercontinental overlooking Tokyo. The cuisine was Japan/Israel; falafel and humous, next to sushi and sashimi; wine from the Golan and Goldstar beer.

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