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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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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 and Zubin Mehta have been guests in Japan 9 times over the past 30 years.  It has impresario Tadatsugu Sasaki to thank for the wonderful conditions and organization.

The last evening of each visit is reserved for a reception at his home when he hosts a dinner for the entire orchestra.

relaxing at Sasaki's

Maestro Mehta expressed his wish to make the Tenth visit in the near future, and there are rumors that the orchestra will be returning in 4 years to make it a round number!

Zubin thanking our Japanese hosts


lucky guy at Sasaki's reception

Sasaki’s home is a combination of museum, office space and practice rooms for his true love, the Tokyo Ballet.  The reception rooms are packed with mementoes, artifacts, figurines and European artwork.

Uzi at Sasaki's

The last concert was a broadcast from the NHK Auditorium as part of a Beethoven Cycle by visiting orchestras.  The IPO performed the 6th and 7th symphonies. See video >>

The orchestra had a short break between performances of ballet and its concert on Saturday evening at the Bunka Kykan in Tokyo.

Clarinet section Yonatan, Genia and Ron at Bunka Kykan

The most popular destinations were Hakone Mountain with its lake, forest and live volcano, Kamakura with Japan’s biggest Buddha, Nikko, the ancient capitol of Japan, or sites in Tokyo like Asakusa, Meji Jinjo, Akihabara and Shinjuku.

Ilya at Ueno Park

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Zubin Mehta and members of the Israel Philharmonic bass section participated in a memorial service for Georg Straka, bassist of the Vienna Philharmonic, who was killed in a climbing accident on Mt. Fuji.

Both orchestras are in Tokyo as part of Far East tours.  The ceremony took place on the stage of Suntory Hall in Tokyo.

Colleagues of the Vienna Philharmonic played the Funeral March from Beethoven’s Third Symphony, and a minute of silence was observed.  Members of the IPO expressed their condolences to their colleagues of the bass section.

The IPO and Zubin Mehta presented 3 ballets at the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo; Stravinsky’s Petrushka, 3 movements from Mahler’s Third Symphony and The Rite of Spring.

All three productions were simply amazing.  Those of us who sat in the audience at the dress rehearsal were unanimous in our praise of the dancers, Zubin and the orchestra, and the photos speak for themselves!!!!

AMAZING - Rite of spring

Dancing to Mahler

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