The Philharmonic returned to Japan for concerts in Tokyo at Suntory Hall, Bunka Kaikan and the NHK, Kukuoka, Osaka, Mie, Nagoya, then back to Tokyo.

Upon returning to Tokyo, the orchestra will join the Tokyo Ballet in 2 performances of Beethoven Ninth Symphony; musicians, soloists, choir and dancers all choreographed on one stage.

IPO is no stranger to Tokyo: nature hikes, shopping, sushi; just great!

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Musicians of the IPO joined in the Tsunami Violin Project, performing on a unique quartet of string instruments in Suntory Hall, Tokyo.

The Tsunami Violin Project was born in the aftermath of the tsunami which left behind vast destruction in March 2011, only months after the orchestra’s last tour to Japan. In addition to the devastation, 10,000 children were left homeless; 2,000 orphaned.

Violin maker Muneyuki Nakazawa built the quartet from wood torn from homes in the Tohoku region by the water. In a nearby forest only one tree was left standing, a symbol of the hope for renewal. When it succumbed to the salt water a year later, its image was preserved on the instruments, and its wood used to make bass bars and sound posts for the quartet.

The organizers are planning 1000 performances on the instruments; a Japanese tradition of 1000 good wishes. Proceeds of fund raising go to allow child victims of natural disasters to recover through music education.

The instruments will be played in Suntory Hall, Tokyo, in all of the orchestra’s appearances in Japan and in broadcasts for the NHK.

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The IPO flew from Bangkok to Ulsan, South Korea. Ulsan is not your usual cultural center, but it does have the largest car manufacturing factory in the world (Hyundai), and the largest shipyard in the world (again…Hyundai).

The concert of Vivaldi, Schubert and Tchaikovsky was the main attraction of the cultural season, but it was also a special gift to the people at Hyundai. Tomorrow morning the ship will be christened.

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The Far East Tour of the IPO began with a return visit to the Bangkok Festival of Dance and Music under the patronage of the Queen of Thailand.

The symphonic part of the concert was Mozart’s Linz Symphony and Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Opening the concert was  a special treat for the audience, Vivaldi’s concerto for 4 violins performed as Vivaldi probably first heard it, with 4 women of the orchestra playing the solo parts; Saida Barlev, Genia Pikovsky, Sharon Cohen and Polina Yehudin.

Vivaldi was the violin instructor and resident composer at Ospedale della Pieta in Venice; an orphanage where boys learned trades and young women learned violin. Many of his ensemble pieces were written for his students.

A string ensemble composed entirely of gentlemen from the orchestra and led by Maestro Mehta accompanied the ladies in the concerto.

If four queens for one concert are not enough, the Queen of Thailand also came on stage and presented Maestro Mehta and the orchestra with a gift of flowers; 5 Queens in one concert!

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Three weeks ago the Israel Philharmonic returned from Budapest after 13 days in Siberia, the Baltic Countries and Eastern Europe; yesterday we landed in Bangkok for the beginning of the Far East tour.

In between, we performed at Israel Music Week’s final concert and opened the IPO’s 79th Season with concerts of Ein Heldenleben and Mahler Second Symphony, “The Resurrection.” In all, we managed to squeeze in 13 rehearsals and 9 concerts.

Denis Matsuyev, who was our host at the “Star of the Baikal Festival” in Siberia, was the soloist in Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto. At his final concert in Tel Aviv, the “Jeans” season opener, he also improvised a jazz encore!

Between Europe and the Far East, Tel Aviv was a nice stopover.

The month’s tour includes appearances in Bangkok, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China. After landing in Bangkok, musicians had to choose between “foot massage” or “food massage” before sleeping off some jet lag. First rehearsal; 10:00 in the morning.

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Beautiful Prague: synagogues, churches, the Charles Bridge, the Castle, goulash with dumplings washed down with a half liter of Czech lager; a tourist heaven…but we didn’t see any of it!

Our flight arrived  at 13:00, we waited an hour for suitcases before leaving the airport empty handed, crowded into the hotel, had a rushed meal in an Indian restaurant, an hour rest and left for rehearsal. Prague to be seen next time….but the concert was GREAT!

Broadcast live on national television, our concert was the final concert of the Dvorakova Music Festival held at the Rudolfinum, home of the Czech Philharmonic. It was a black-tie audience that greeted the orchestra in a concert of Beethoven, Mozart and Strauss.

At intermission Maestro Mehta was personally congratulated by the Grandson of Antonin Dvorak.

The Strauss received a standing ovation and the orchestra went on to perform an encore.

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Day ten of the tour; a watershed! Rule of thumb; if you can get through the first ten days, the rest is easy.

We fly to Bratislava; lunch, a walk around the old city, rehearsal and concert: the tour routine.

Micah Davis, bass trombone is whisked off to the hospital with chest pains minutes before the rehearsal. The trombone section shuffles parts around, we rehearse the changes, and the concert begins.

At intermission Micah returns with our doctor, Dror Berman. Although his color is something between green and grey, he warms up and goes on stage. Micah is tough. After all, we’re playing “Ein Heldenleben”; a Hero’s Life!

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The Israel Philharmonic completed its short tour of the Baltic Countries, Finland, Lithuania and Estonia with a concert in Tallinn. Time was short and immediately after landing, orchestra members spread out through the old city for site seeing and lunch.

We ate at a restaurant offering a medieval period menu; barley, wild boar, lamb, lentils, wild mushrooms and mead; beer was served in ceramic pots. The restaurant was lit by candle power only and the waiters were dressed in period costumes; of course we were addressed as “My Lord!”  and we felt like “Lords”.

The concert of Tchaikovsky and Strauss was a huge success and immediately afterward, the Israel Ambassador hosted a reception for members of the orchestra, Maestro and Mrs. Mehta and local musicians.

The IPO leaves the Baltic States impressed by their great potential, their warm friendship for Israel and our common bonds of cultural harmony. Being a guest in the Baltic States has been a new and wonderful experience for the orchestra.

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The IPO has musicians from Lithuania; Loca, Alex, Itzik, Mulah, Shlomo, Shimon, to mention a few! Yesterday it was an opportunity to visit their beautiful city of Vilna and enjoy the local culture.

The day also included a visit to the site where Vilna’s Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, Punar; and an evening visit with the Jewish community. Among the guests was the son of the Japanese ambassador who, during the war, saved 2000 Jewish families by providing exit visas.

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We flew out of foggy Finland. Yesterday’s sunny weather had disappeared. One hour later we were in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The evenings’ gala concert opening the opera season was to be attended by the President of the State and her ministers at the Opera House. Lithuanian Mezzo Soprano Violetta Urmana was the star of the evening and the orchestra needed an hour of rehearsal for the three arias.

The instruments had left the night before but had to go by ferry, cross to Estonia, than drive south to Vilnius. Even with police escort it was a close call! Anxious minutes ticked by as we waited at the hall for the truck to arrive. With an impatient Zubin fidgeted between the truck, the backstage and the podium, stagehands finally began delivering the instrument boxes; often from the truck to the stage at a dead run. With only 25 minutes to concert time, we started rehearsing.

The three arias, from Samson and Delilah, Il Trovatore and Don Carlos were a huge success; the mezzo enjoying her glory and Zubin at his best. No one would have guessed the stressful moments that had passed.