Israel Phil adds quarter-tones to the Eurovision theme

Israel Phil adds quarter-tones to the Eurovision theme


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2019



  • observer says:

    This remarkable orchestra is a reminder of how deeply European Israel is and remains. We might also note that Tel Aviv has more opera performances per year than every American city except New York. Considerably more than cities we think of as our centers of opera. A third more than Chicago. About twice as many as San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle. Over four times as many as Boston. Israel was founded and first populated mostly by Europeans (Ashkenazis), and this profoundly shapes the identity of the country to this day in spite of what is now a Mizrahi majority among the populace.

    Until the Suez Crisis of 1956, Israel was still under the umbrella of France and Britain. France was its main supplier of arms. When Israel, France, and Britain invaded Egypt in 1956 to remove Nassar from power and revoke his nationalization of the Suez Canal, the US government was outraged. Eisenhower threatened to massively damage the British economy by selling off America’s sterling pound bonds. And even more astoundingly, the USSR threatened nuclear attacks on London and Paris, while the USA remained quiescent and very pointedly didn’t offer to protect France and Britain.

    The balance of power in the Middle East was radically altered, and Israel fell under the influence of the USA.

    So my thought is that if Suez Crisis had not occurred, and if Israel had remained under the protection of France and Britain, it might today be a part of the EU which in many respects would fit more closely with the character of the country than its close alliance with the USA. And given American militarism, it might have also led to more peaceful resolutions of the conflicts in the Middle East than we see today.

    This is, of course, a radically different view than is common today, and will certainly meet with the usual partisan objections, but at any rate, it is interesting to contemplate these turns of history. And all sensed in some way through cultural expression.

    • “This remarkable orchestra is a reminder of how deeply European Israel is and remains.” Israel is deeply Middle-Eastern. Most of its citizens have non-European parents or ancestry.

      • observer says:

        Yes, that it has far more opera performances than Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, and Houston, tells me it is deeply “Middle Eastern.”

    • Robert Groen says:

      And all this time the Palestinians were under the mistaken impression that they were living in the Middle East! Weird….

    • Saxon Broken says:

      It would not have been part of the EU even if the Suez crisis had not happened.

  • CJ says:

    You mean to the prelude of the Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, (aptly) used as the Eurovision theme?
    (I love the version by Jordi Savall).

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    Those aren’t quarter tones. Just a little just intonation here and there.

  • William Spode says:

    No quarter-tones there. Just some klezmer semitones 🙂

    • William Spode says:

      Victor Ullmann deployed this idea in more actively subversive fashion, when he ‘rearranged’ ‘Gott erhalte Unser Kaiser” in his prison-camp opera ‘The Emperor of Atlantis’ – the original melody, but now in a Kletzmer tonality. Sadly Ullmann was carted off to the ‘showers’ when the goons realised what he’d actually composed there. Still too ‘touchy’ for most opera theatres to stage, it seems.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    In western nomenclature, the harmonic minor scale. Nothing quarter tone about it.