Israel Philharmonic’s new chief needs to recapture lost generations

I have written a short commentary on Lahav Shani’s appointment to the Israel Phil for the JC.

Seventy years ago, the Israel Philharmonic was the pride of a young nation. Today, Lahav Shani needs first to recapture the young.

Read on here.


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  • Without wishing in any way to do down Mehta’s genuine achievements in keeping that very difficult and often less than cohesive band together for so long, his artistic results only very rarely transcended the one-dimensional and superficial (and not just in Israel!). Shani has a very real talent and this is a moment of exciting potential. May it blossom.

    • Rodney Greenberg (the director of masterclass ) has been an occasional contributor to SD. He might remember things about it.

  • The first concert of Shani with the IPO after he was elected took place this week and was n my opinion an outstanding success . I think the IPO under a great conductor is one of the great orchestras , and they really played very well in the Shostakovich 5th .

  • Perhaps one of the first things that should be done is to seek out the new voices in Israeli classical music like Gilad Hochman and Mátti Kovler, in addition to seeking out Israeli Arab composers and, if there are any, Ethiopian Jewish composers, as well as composers outside of Israel who have explored the Jewish experience, such as the American composers James Lee III and Avrohom Leichtling, and the British composer Wilfred Josephs, whose Requiem is one of the most prevalent choral/orchestral works to emerge from the last half of the last century.

    Now whether Israel is ready to accept the music of Wagner and Richard Strauss is a whole different matter. Will a new generation accept the music that scarred their forefathers because of its extra-musical affiliations with one of the most heinous regimes in all of Western Europe, or will they see past it and accept it as music first, in spite of one composer’s anti-Semitism and the controversy of the other’s involvement with the hierarchy of the Third Reich? This remains to be seen.

    But the inclusion of musicians of all races and creed from Israel should be looked at without prejudice nor suspicion. If one is to build unity with all, then music, regardless of era or idiom, should be the binding cloth and the impregnable wall to peace in the region.

    • The IPO plays R. Strauss regularly- surely among the most commonly performed composer: This season- “rosenkavalier”, Alpine Symphony, Heldenleben, Suite from Elektra.

        • Where is ‘here’?

          Wagner wrote at length about his dislike of Jews.

          Other composers of greatness did not….say, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven,Schubert.
          four who lived in times when Jews were excluded from full participation in society.

          Is there one word recorded from any of them that indicates disapproval of such a state of affairs, that reveals a stance other than indifference and complacence, at best?

  • The intrusion of politics into classical music is never welcome. And the ban on Wagner should be perpetual. Everywhere.

  • Zubin Mehta is just not much of a conductor, never has been.

    Music never has bound people together, in the sense of nations bedding down as one, it’s been quite the opposite at least since the 19th century.

    If activist concern for the civil rights and image of Jews is front and center, then it’s defunding time for Shakespeare and Bach, for just a start.

    Drop it.

    • Nobody has any idea what Shakespeare thought about anything, let alone Jews. His plays have lots of characters, of all different types, but there is no particular reason to think the characters opinions and behaviour reflected his own.

      • We have many excellent clues as to what Shakespeare thought and felt about a great many things, even if his overall philosophy of life, if any, eludes us. Caroline Spurgeon’s 1939 “Skakespeare’s Imagery” got us off to a great start, using his metaphors as mental fingerprints.

        Bill had no compunction going for stereotypes in his dramas. Macbeth was the weasel Scot. Othello was the violent black, jealous, lacking self-contol. Shylock was murderously vengeful and obsessed with money, his measure of all things. The Merchant of Venice is unquestionably an antisemitic play and an attack on the religion (judging from its conclusion) as well as its practitioners.

        It would take some evidence to suggest that this was Not what Shakespeare felt, even if he hadn’t cared much about the whole subject. It was perfectly in keeping with his own times — Elizabeth countenanced the execution of her personal (Jewish) physician during an outbreak of hysteria. I’ve studied all sorts of schemes (by Jews) to reclaim the Merchant over the course of the 20th century and all have failed. “Antisemitic” is not All it is — it’s a great and varied play, but the truth is the truth. The play reflects the author’s outlook as well.

        (It was for this reason that the state of California banned All Shakespeare from its schools circa 1947. As a result generations of children skipped the usual horrible early encounter and Shakespeare summer festivals have enjoyed an unequaled mass popularity there since.)

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