“I aim to present Jewish Music in a current context, not in its usual depiction as something just related to the Holocaust or categorized as “entartete Kunst” “, explained artistic director Daniel Grossman, who founded Orchester Jakobsplatz in 2005.

Photo: Erol Gurian – Orchester Jakobsplatz

Growing up in Germany, as the second generation of Jews being born after World War II, there seems to be a need to find a new relationship to one’s Jewish heritage and artistic identity.


The ensemble consists of young, professional musicians from more than 20 countries, who have a strong focus on playing rarely performed works of Jewish composers , in combination with other works of  the 20th and 21st century.


Since 2007, Orchester Jakobsplatz’s steady home has been Munich’s new Jewish Community Center, located at the Jacobsplatz, with its regular concert series taking place in its Hubert Burda Auditorium. The programming is varied with traditional fare being performed, alongside contemporary music that includes commissioned works for the ensemble, depicting their Jewish connections.


The remarkable success of securing a steady venue and its performance opportunities has in turn contributed to the ensemble’s distinct and continuous growth, both in its scope and dimension: “The Jewish music tradition is an ongoing theme for our ensemble and our international members, but musically everybody also brings his own personal traditions into the music making dialogue,” said Grossman, in an interview after the orchestra’s presentation at the Munich Classical: NEXT forum.


New ways of presenting classical music were a central focal point for the international music community attending Classical: NEXT. Picking up on this challenge, Orchester Jakobsplatz has certainly found an interesting niche, with the concept of continuously expanding their repertoire and venues for playing, while pursuing successful co-operative situations with other artists.


To that end, the orchestra has engaged in numerous co-productions with the Bavarian State Theatre. Examples of these are the staged performance of the chamber opera “The Kaiser of Atlantis of the Refusal of Death” by Viktor Ullman, Benjamin Fleischmann’s “Rothschild’s Violin”, combined with Sarah Nemtsov’s chamber opera “Herzland” – all of which have been staged by the Bavarian State Opera.


Other highlights that helped expand the orchestra’s reputation and reach internationally include a benefit-concert with Anne-Sophie Mutter and performances with renowned soloists such as Tanja Becker-Bender, Sergej Leiferkus, Adrian Brendel , Ann-Katrin Najdu and Kevin Conners.


In 2006, the orchestra opened the ninth Jewish Summer Festival in Budapest, where Grossman has appeared regularly as guest-conductor, since 2000 on. An international tour to Israel in 2009 was followed by a tour to Moldavia, the Ukraine and Rumania, recently.


This year the Jewish community of Stockholm hosts the ensemble’s revitalization of spirited old and new Jewish music and the Orchestra has already a tour planned throughout the United States in 2013.


The young and thoughtful Daniel Grossman, who conducts Orchester Jakobsplatz, points out the importance of the ongoing cultural exchange, in all the orchestra’s endeavors. “Everyone integrates their cultural heritage into existing institutions. We are integrating our Jewish one. The cultural exchange that develops out of that is an immense experience and quite refreshing for someone like me who grew up Jewish, after the war in Germany.” Photo: Christine Schneider -Daniel Grossman


This new Jewish generation growing up German and Jewish in Germany has managed to incorporate a lively blend of the existing diverse and rich Jewish cultural traditions within the German environment. They are looking to broaden its appeal to other countries, where there once had been an active Jewish community life and musical tradition. This important new multi-cultural focus also facilitates a fresh and vibrant breeding ground for contemporary creations that speak of a newly blossoming and self-confident Jewish spirit.


No wonder the project received great cultural and political attention and support within the Jewish Community and from the German Government, in general. With the ensemble’s solid establishment at the Jewish Community Center at Jakobsplatz, this group exemplifies the return of a much more complete Jewish heritage taking its well-deserved place in Munich’s cultural life.


Orchester Jacobsplatz has recorded two CDs for the label NEOS Music. In 2008 works of John Cage and in 2009, works of the Jewish composer Paul Ben-Haim were released by this label. NEOS Music has established an ongoing cooperation with the Orchester Jakobsplatz and will continue to bring out their work.

To get in touch with the orchestra’s manager Dr.Julia Grossmann contact info@orchester-jakobsplatz.de  or their US/Canada representation Barbara Scales at bscales@lattitude45arts.com

By Ilona Oltuski

Ilona Oltuski was born in Berlin (Germany), the city her family returned to after her grandmother’s escape to Palestine. Through her parents – the father from Krakow in Poland, the mother from Berlin – Ilona experienced cultural diversity early on in life. Growing up Jewish in post-war Berlin and Frankfurt would add to this. Although deeply connected to German culture, Ilona was always acutely aware of the differences between herself and her environment. Perhaps it was the search for her very own identity, which led her to study art history and complete her doctorate on the Bezalel Art Movement, a part of her investigation into the existence of an explicitly Jewish art. Besides art history, Ilona studied piano at the Hoch’sche Conservatory - the Frankfurt music school founded by Clara Schumann. After moving to New York with her husband, she continued to study her favorite instrument and met and befriended many pianists - from amateurs to professional performers. A passionate amateur herself, Ilona decided to combine her love for the piano and the world of music with her interest in writing and the sharing of ideas, resulting in her first articles on http://blogcritics.org. Next was her German blog, ‘Wohltemperiert aus New York’, which she continues to write for Naxos Deutschland (http://blog.naxos.de); see the ‘Naxos America’ link for Ilona’s English blogs). Her English-language blog, http://getclassical.blogspot.com, can be found on Facebook’s blog network; it recently migrated into the collection of blogs on her own website, http://getclassical.org/ She also still maintains her ‘Piano Salon’ group on Facebook, connecting pianists and their friends. Forever interested in an exchange of information and ideas, Ilona hopes that her very own website will provide a wide platform for a conversation among readers, performers and music lovers. “Reinventing my creative side by writing about my diverse encounters in the world of music, about inspiration and artistic expression, and the very human side of these endeavors, reaching right under my skin - that’s my shtick”, she says. Ilona lives in New York City with her family.