Israel after Zubin won’t have an easy choice

Israel after Zubin won’t have an easy choice


norman lebrecht

January 02, 2017

When Zubin Mehta steps down in 2019 it will have been half a century since the Israel Philharmonic last picked a music director. There is no template for a selection process. If there ever was one, they’ve forgotten where it got buried.

So first the orchestra has to decide how it wants to go about the process.

Zubin’s long tenure has been covered for most of its duration by the long-standing chief executive, Avi Shoshani. It is safe to assume that Shoshani, who was hired initially as company secretary in 1973, will step down when Zubin goes but no-one is quite clear what role this wily fixer will play in the succession.

Once they have sorted out who chooses the next music director, they’ll need to decide what kind of chief they want – a brilliant young Israeli like the incoming Rotterdam chief Lahav Shani, or an international figure like Gianandrea Noseda – to mention just two maestros who have a close association with the ensemble.

Shani would wake up the musicians and the audience alike, and both have been falling off for a while. He will also have the authority and courage to break the taboo by which no Arab-Israeli musician has been admitted to the IPO.

Noseda will guarantee international tours and will have the Washington-based authority to convince Israeli politicians of the need to protect the orchestra’s subsidy.

There will be other names in the hat, but these two are front-runners. Both would be agents of significant change.


  • Tim Kendal says:

    They need look no further than Shani. By a long way the most exciting and inspiring of conductors on the scene today.

    • Leo says:

      He’s not well known enough yet for such a prestigious position. Surely it needs someone with many years experience like Bychkow, Jansons or Fischer.

    • RW2013 says:

      Please define “exciting” conductor.

      • Pianofortissimo says:

        Those conductors who provoke fast reactions, positive and negative, in the Orchestra and in the public as well. SD, by the way, could be called an ‘exciting’ site, considering so many people who just write down their mind without thinking very much about it, and then they just go on Writing and Writing and

  • Eyal Braun says:

    The other conductors who are mentioned as candidates for the position:
    1. Manfred Honeck- some of the finest concerts of the IPO in recent years were under his baton.
    2. V. Petrenko- much loved by both the audience and the orchestra.
    3. Heras- Casado, made an outstanding debute with the orchestra last year.
    . 4.V. Jurowski.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Forgive my ignorance do they tour are they any good. Excellent conductors will only go where they can add value to their own reputations

    • M2N2K says:

      They are not “any” good. They are *very* good. And they tour abroad more than most. Within the first nine months of last year IPO went on six international tours during which they performed in: China, Singapore, Greece, India, Germany, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. Domestically, their season is nearly ten months long and during this current one they are performing 33 different programs in Israel’s three major cities. For more information, including the impressive lineup of soloists and guest conductors, see .

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        Thankyou I will listen. They don’t seem to come to London which is why I am ignorant!

        • Eyal Braun says:

          They don’t come to London because the anti- Israeli demonstrations that took place every time they performed in the UK, the last time they played in the Proms the concert was interrupted several time. .

  • john says:

    Noseda is a top notch candidate, who can handle any of the world´s top orchestras.

  • Simone says:

    Noseda is great, but how many positions is he supposed to hold at the same time? Music Director of Torino Opera House, Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, Principal Guest Conductor of the LSO, Principal Conductor in Cadaqués, Music Director of the Stresa Festival… Now IPO as well? What title will he be given next? Mother of Dragons?

    • David Rohde says:

      I agree with Simone. Gianandrea Noseda has his work cut out for him in Washington starting next season, and any further dilution of his time will not bode well for his success. The National Symphony Orchestra (of the U.S.) is treated by many people in the Washington area as kind of the house band for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and a cultural afterthought otherwise. Having Christoph Eschenbach as music director of the Kennedy Center as well as the NSO has barely moved the needle on this as far as I can tell. In addition, the NSO faces direct competition from Marin Alsop’s Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which typically puts one performance of each program in the acoustically superior Music Center at Strathmore in the near D.C. suburb of Montgomery County, Maryland. (Remember, the District of Columbia itself is quite small geographically, although the traffic around town is often horrible.) NSO and Kennedy Center officials have said that Noseda intends to be a regular presence around town, including the prosaic idea that he intends to be seen grocery shopping with everyone else. I agree he would have been a natural candidate to head up the IPO, but his new appointment in Washington ought to be a strong mark against that for both orchestras’ sake.