April 10, 2006
How can I write about something else after this musical experience?
Should I forget our visit to the northern border, to the kibbutz founded by Dutch Christians?.
Why write about a place called ‘Nes Ammim – Miracle of Nations’, when I have experienced culture at its deepest?
No matter that we saw the most beautiful flowers, trees and cacti. Ignore the colourful (Jewish) religious families relaxing there on Shabbath. Forget the smiles at the names on the trees (each one named after a child born to visiting couples – their stays are sometimes long).
Do not mention that we visited the neighbouring areas, the hills of the Galilee, the lovely Montfort Crusader fort, right on the Lebanese border (with the next one, Beaufort, on the Lebanese side).
Picnics in the hills, art exhibitions, walkers and strollers of every type, some with guides, some with children, and some just holding hands.
Why is it important that we saw no journalists, no delving cameras, no tension. Just peoples at rest and play.
How can I write about such banalities, when there was Zubin Mehta’s birthday to celebrate? If Sophia Loren took the trouble to make the trip specifically to honour her dear friend, then surely so could we.
We mixed with the jet set, the politicians and the personalities from, as they say, stage, screen and radio.
Zubin pointed out the presence of 3 generations of musicians:
The Future – His grandchildren. Partly to celebrate 50 years of Tel Aviv university, there was the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music Symphony Orchestra. Josef Buchmann, a leading German architect, great philanthropist and Holocaust survivor worked over the years with Mehta to establish this wonderful school of music, equal to any in the World.
The Present – His children, every one taken in personally by Mehta. The magnificent Israel Philharmonic, established by those with foresight who, during the early Nazi times, realised that there was no future in Europe for the Jews. Until 1948 known as the Palestine Orchestra, they had their first performance in the new country on December 26th, 1936 under the baton of Toscanini.
In 1947, under the young Leonard Bernstein, they played for the soldiers after the liberation of Beersheba. Bernstein came back to perform with them in Jersualem in 1967 after the liberation of the city, playing Mahler’s 2nd – “Resurrection”.
In 1977, it was Mehta who played with the orchestra at the ‘Good Fence’ with Lebanon, and in 1991 – in a sealed hall – during the bombs of the Gulf War.
The Past – His brothers and sisters. There, behind the orchestra, in full view of Mehta, sat many veterans of the orchestra, those with whom Mehta had grown.
President Katzav honoured the man, reminding us that both came from Parsee (Persian) backgrounds.
There were live and filmed dedications from Loren, Shimon Peres, Itzhak Perlman, Daniel Barenboim (I’m sure Jackie was smiling down on them all), Pinchas Zuckerman (who performed Mozart’s Violin No.5), Lang Lang, Kirk Douglas (who organised Mehta’s 60th party in L.A.) and so on.
Then the music. Apart from Mozart, there was the overture to von Weber’s ‘Oberon’, played by the Youth Orchestra – such a lovely piece. Then the finale. Both orchestras together, the soloists from the younger generation, they played Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. If ever you get the chance, SEE this played. I’m certain Tchaikovsky must have pulled his hair out when he heard it.
They showed a film of Mehta’s life – and his love affair with this country and it’s culture. This tiny country, already bursting at the seams with hi-tech, war, religion, tourism, Dead Sea Minerals and Coral Sea diving – this country is swimming in the deep water of culture. It’s theatre, literature and art are already legend.
Here I was reminded of its musical heritage. It was a deep experience…