The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is one of Israel’s oldest and most influential cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1936, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has dedicated itself to presenting the world’s greatest music to audiences in Israel and around the world. Founded by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra represents the fulfillment of his dream “to unite the desire of the country for an orchestra with the desire of the Jewish musicians for a country.” Huberman spent countless hours persuading first-chair musicians of Eastern European and German orchestras, who had lost their jobs as a result of Nazism, to immigrate to Palestine. In doing so, Huberman created an “orchestra of soloists” which, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta, continues to absorb new immigrants and act as a dynamic, global community for musicians from across the world.
Major soloists and conductors have always performed with The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Its inaugural concert was conducted by Arturo Toscanini who felt his participation was a means to demonstrate his opposition to Fascism. Its members traveled in armored cars to play in a besieged Jerusalem during the War of Independence, and, among Israelis, the memory of IPO Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein conducting the Orchestra in front of 5,000 soldiers on the Negev dunes after the battle for Beersheba, is an historic moment. Through it all, the Orchestra has enjoyed associations with such renowned artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Yoel Levi, Yo-Yo Ma, Lorin Maazel, Honorary Guest Conductor Kurt Masur, Itzhak Perlman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Arthur Rubinstein,Gil Shaham, Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman. Their time and talent have enriched the cultural life of Israel and have helped the Orchestra to maintain its high artistic standards.
In celebration of the concurrent 75th anniversaries of both The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s and Music Director Zubin Mehta’s birth years, as well as the 50th anniversary of Maestro Mehta’s conducting debut with the same ensemble, the Orchestra performed eight concerts in seven cities throughout the United States in February 2011. As a 75-year old symbol of cultural diplomacy, the IPO’s tour brought its music and message of peace to concerts in Naples, West Palm Beach, New York City, Newark, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 2014, the IPO tours fourteen cities across the United States led by Music Director, Zubin Mehta, and Principal Guest Conductor, Gianandrea Noseda.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is Israel’s premier cultural ambassador and travels extensively throughout the world, particularly to countries where there is little or no Israeli representation. The goodwill created by these tours, which have included historic visits to Japan, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Russia, China, and India is of enormous value to the State of Israel. In 2005 the Orchestra traveled to Berlin, Germany to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany; to London, Paris and Geneva on a tour co-sponsored by the Weizmann and Pasteur Institutes; and, to South America where the Orchestra visited eight cities in 20 days. In April 2013, Maestro Mehta led the IPO with violinist Julian Rachlin in a tribute concert at Poland’s National Opera, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Orchestra also concluded a momentous South American tour last summer with a free concert for over 12,000 concertgoers and thousands more via international simulcast. Cities on the tour included Santiago (Chile), Bogotá (Colombia), Lima (Peru), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), which featured a surprise musical appearance by Pinchas Zukerman.
Due to the efforts of American Friends of The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the generous support of donors worldwide, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestrareturned to its home at Tel-Aviv’s Heichal Hatarbut in March 2013 following extensive renovations. The Mann Auditorium (Heichal Hatarbut) was renamed theCharles R. Bronfman Auditorium and hosted its inaugural gala concert on May 25, 2013.
Currently, the Orchestra gives more than 100 performances each year in Israel to their 26,000 subscribers, where 14 different concert series are presented in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. The IPO KeyNote Education and Outreach Program brings classical music to the audience of the future through music.
The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra last performed for La Jolla Music Society in the Celebrity Orchestra Series on November 22, 2008.
Zubin Mehta was born in 1936 in Bombay and received his first musical education under his father’s Mehli Mehta’s guidance who was a noted concert violinist and the founder of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. After a short period of pre-medical studies in Bombay, he left for Vienna in 1954 where he eventually entered the conducting programme under Hans Swarowsky at the Akademie für Musik. Zubin Mehta won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition in 1958 and was also a prize-winner of the summer academy at Tanglewood. By 1961 he had already conducted the Vienna, Berlin and The Israel Philharmonic Orchestras and has recently celebrated 50 years of musical collaboration with all three ensembles.
Zubin Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1967 and also assumed the Music Directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962, a post he retained until 1978. In 1969 he was appointed Music Adviser to The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and was made Music Director of that orchestra in 1977. In 1981 The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra awarded him the title of Music Director for life. Zubin Mehta has conducted over three thousand concerts with this extraordinary ensemble including tours spanning five continents. In 1978 he took over the post as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic commencing a tenure lasting 13 years, the longest in the orchestra’s history. Since 1985, he has been chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.
Zubin Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor with Tosca in Montreal in 1963. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala Milano, and the opera houses of Chicago and Florence as well as at the Salzburg Festival. Between 1998 and 2006 he was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. In October 2006 he opened the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia and was the President of the annual Festival del Mediterrani in Valencia until June 2014 where he conducted the celebrated Ring cycle with the Fura del Baus in coproduction with the Florence opera house. Other Ring cycles were completed at the Chicago Opera and the Bavarian State Opera.
Zubin Mehta’s list of awards and honours is extensive and includes the “Nikisch-Ring” bequeathed to him by Karl Böhm. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997, of the Bavarian State Opera in 2006 and of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien in 2007. The title of “Honorary Conductor” was bestowed to him by the following orchestras: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (2001), Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (2004), Los Angeles Philharmonic (2006), Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (2006), Staatskapelle Berlin (2014) and Bavarian State Orchestra (2006), with whom he performed in Srinagar, Kashmir in September 2013.
In October 2008 Zubin Mehta was honoured by the Japanese Imperial Family with the “Praemium Imperiale”. In March 2011 Zubin Mehta received a special distinction, in getting a star on the Hollywood Boulevard. The Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was bestowed to him in July 2012. The Indian Government honoured him in September 2013 with the “Tagore Award for cultural harmony” which a year earlier was awarded to Ravi Shankar.
Zubin Mehta continues to support the discovery and furtherance of musical talents all over the world. Together with his brother Zarin he is a co-chairman of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Bombay where more than 200 children are educated in Western Classical Music. The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv develops young talent in Israel and is closely related to The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as is a new project of teaching young Arab Israelis in the cities of Shwaram and Nazareth with local teachers and members of The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Zubin Mehta last performed for La Jolla Music Society in the Celebrity Orchestra Series on January 8, 1998.