Merry Christmas – from the Land where it all began…
Yesterday, Christmas Eve, a 50-foot Christmas Tree lit up Manger Square in Bethlehem, and Midnight Mass went ahead with no hitches – better than in many recent years.
We planned to have a mixed Christmas/Chanukkah lunch for about 16 – with turkey, crackers and Xmas pudding – but plans changed at the last moment, and we ended up with a ‘closer family affair’. I cooked a goulasch as per my father’s famous recipe (correct, it has NOTHING to do with Christmas), we played Domingo and Aznavour singing Christmas songs and the 2 babies played with the dog.
Later, Aviva and I watched the 75th Anniversary concert of the Israeli Philharmonic, followed by a documentary on it’s fantastic history. How many of you know that it was inspired and started by Toscanini? Did you know that he and the orchestra DID play Wagner? (Currently forbidden, for obvious and correct reasons) That was because the orchestra actually started in 1936 – before WWII and before the State of Israel of established. The Holocaust may have been foreseen by some, but it had not yet happened.
Zubin Mehta – now 50 years with the orchestra….
Arturo Toscanini Bernstein conducting on Mount Scopus after the 6-day War, 1967
Rubinstein came ‘many times’ to Israel – Isaac Stern claimed to have come more than 100 times – Itzhak Perlman was a favourite here – and Barenboim.
We saw Bernstein here on his final 70th Birthday World tour. He died shortly after. What excitement to see the man literally jumping high to match the climax of a piece.
We saw Stern, but not in 1991, when he continued to play despite the incoming Scuds from Iraq – and with the audience wearing gas masks.
We saw Perlman play the Mendelssohn Concerto. He hobbled on stage as usual, dragging his polio’d legs with him. After sitting, laying his crutches next to the chair, placing his legs where they were most comfortable. Zubin Mehta handed him his violin and bow that he had been carrying for the him. Perlman smiled his thanks, and then drew Mehta’s baton from out of his sleeve and handed it to the conductor. He HAD to carry something.
Barenboim famously played a Wagner encore and caused a walk-out of many. Mehta actually did the same, and played on as hecklers charged the stage.
What do I think? Wagner was a vicious anti-Semite. Hitler and his cronies not only loved Wagnerian music, they used it whenever possible. Jews famously had to play Wagner music as their fellow-Jews were shoved into the gas chambers. My opinion: wait till it is pretty certain that that generation has passed on – and then gently start to play what I think is some of the most beautiful and important music ever written.
Happy Birthday, IPO – One of 5 major orchestras in this tiny country of ours.
And Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah and a very special 2012 to you all.