Exclusive: British music director gives up salary to save Israeli orchestra

Exclusive: British music director gives up salary to save Israeli orchestra


norman lebrecht

October 22, 2015

The Israeli Symphony Orchestra, based in Rishon LeZion, is is deep trouble. Years of underfunding, yoked to an under-performing Israel Opera and abandoned by philistine right-wing governments, have left the orchestra on the brink of insolvency.

Today, the music director James Judd took matters in his own hands.

Here’s his letter:

20 October 2015

To the Members of the Board, the General Director, and the musicians of the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion

I am shocked to hear of the financial situation in which the orchestra finds itself due to persistent situation of insufficient government budgeting, cuts of productions of the Israeli Opera, fees that haven’t been updated for years, and difficulty to raise sufficient funds within a (too) short period. All these threaten the very existence of this fine orchestra and the livelihoods of its dedicated musicians.

It was my proud honour to accept the position of Music Director of the Israel Symphony Orchestra Rishon LeZion in September 2014 and to dedicate myself to the continued growth and excellence of this fine ensemble. Since then I have been closely involved in the activities of the orchestra, its programming and planning. I had the pleasure of taking the orchestra to China in November 2014, where we were described in the media as great 0ambassadors of Israel and brilliant interpreters of the Chinese music which we performed. The music of Israeli composers has featured at home and abroad in our programming, our outreach to young people is exemplary.

It is sad that budgetary starvation is pushing this cultural treasure to the brink of extinction in a country so renowned for musicians and orchestras of such high quality with a public so appreciative of the music making.

At this critical time, I dedicate myself to the survival of our wonderful orchestra by foregoing with immediate effect my Music Director fee while nonetheless carrying on the many functions and duties which my position demands, and I urge the authorities involved in budgeting the orchestra to rethink the budgetary restrictions on the magnificent cultural heritage of the City of Rishon LeZion and the State of Israel.

With my greatest respect

james judd

James Judd


  • ira says:

    judd made the same gracious gesture in order to save the florida philharmonic but the musicians rebuffed the offer with insults and the symphony was disbanded. hoping for better results in this case.

    • Fred says:

      Dear Ira, were you in those FPO board meetings to be able to confirm this?

    • James Estes says:

      Ira, is incorrect. Judd did work for a time without salary. He was never rebuffed by the musicians. The decision to declare bankruptcy and put 84 musicians out of work with two weeks notice was entirely that of Dan Lewis, Chairman of the Board. Dan Lewis then lead the effort to replace the FPO with a 3 week residency by the Cleveland Orchestra.

  • Miles says:

    Ira is not quite right- Judd did make a similar gesture at the Florida Phil. It was, however, the board rather than the musicians, who sabotaged the orchestra completely to make room for visiting orchestras to carpetbag the city. I agree with Ira that we shall all be hoping for better results in Israel.

  • vincenzo says:

    Astonished that the effort of this Maestro is put in the completely wrong place. They don’t deserve this. Funding anything in the criminal state of Israel is contributing to it’s crimes. What an infortunate and politically incorrect move.

    • Mark Morrison says:

      I’m not sure where you come from, Vincenzo, but whoever brought you up to be such an idiot deserves to be severely flogged (and you too, of course). Your racist comments demonstrate that interest in and (perhaps) appreciation of classical music does not imply or confer any sort of intelligence or humanity. The Nazis had a similar problem. (Not calling you a Nazi, of course.)

    • Giancarlo says:

      So Vincenzo, an Israeli orchestra doesn’t deserve to be saved because of the actions of the (unquestionably terrible) government?? Musicians should lose their jobs?? People who make music and perhaps oppose the government’s actions?? Do you wish the same for orchestra’s in china? Syria? Some countries in Africa? Some in south America? All places around the world where there are human rights violations? What’s next? Your views are hypocritical! Actions against artists and art organizations won’t change anything.

    • Mark says:

      Vincenzo, sei un idiota. Stronzo !

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    Israel is a changed society. I was just there. To read this, is nothing short of pathetic. This after the Israel Chamber Orchestra gets disbanded right before the High Holidays. Shameful how Israel has transformed and what kind of values the “new” Israeli society embraces. Breaks my heart.

  • Yair Sachs says:

    I had the pleasure of a short conversation with Mr. Judd after a splendid performance he gave with the Jerusalem Symphony a couple of years ago. (My father, Arieh Erich Sachs, had been a founding member of this ensemble nearly 80 years ago.)
    Judging by this brief encounter with Maestro Judd I am not at all surprised by his admirable gesture.
    As for the generous comments above on my beloved country, just one word: Tacet.

  • esfir ross says:

    The letter of James Judd wasn’t written to musicians of the orchestra, yet. I call a violinist and read this letter and she didn’t have any clue of JJ gesture to help to solve orchestra from disbanding. Musician were only offer cut in salary. Israel Chamber Orchestra’s given 2 month to find a sponsor.