On October 25th, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra gave a sold out concert at Carnegie  Hall, performing under the baton of Maestro Zubin Mehta, a program of  some of Judaism’s most spiritual works, demonstrating their undyingly  righteous, cultural eminence.

Despite a small group of Anti-Israel protesters that had accumulated across the 57th Street entrance, rallied by

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel through various press releases, spirits were high inside the hall as the orchestra opened with the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by Hatikva.


The Benefit event, organized by the American Friends of the Israel  Philharmonic Orchestra will support the orchestra’s touring and  educational programming, as well as the renovation of its home at Tel  Aviv’s Heichal Ha’Tarbut, to be inaugurated in May of 2013.


The program of Arnold Schoenberg’s Kol Nidre and Noam Sheriff’s Mechaye Hametim (Revival of the Dead) had already gained broad recognition at the 2012 Salzburger Festspiele, especially with baritone Thomas Hampson’s leading presence, which had  been described by New York Times’ James R.Oestreich, as: “virtually  embodying an Old Testament Prophet.”Out of the two works, Kol Nidre is  the better known one, yet Sheriff’s symphonic work(NY premiere),  commissioned in  remembrance of the Holocaust and at the same time a  tribute to Jewish culture and national pride proved to be a very organic structure. It incorporated and built upon many different musical  motives.  Joining Hampson and the Collegiate Chorale were the Manhattan  Girls Chorus and Israeli tenor Carl Hieger, all of whom performed in the Hebrew and Yiddish production, with the composer present.

The  original program had been adjusted to include these pieces for the New  York event due to their great acclaim in Salzburg and partially because  the Collegiate Chorale, founded by Robert Shaw in 1941 and currently  directed by James Bagwell, was already present.

In the midst of both Judaic spiritual works, the 25 year old Yuja Wang  poured her stupendous virtuosity into Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No.1  in G minor, op.25. Trumping her first Encore, Rossini-Ginsburg Figaros Aria with an even wilder, magnificently Horowitz- inspired Carmen; she had a gasping audience in her hands.   Dressed in red, the audience was able to marvel at her whirlwind arm-and finger movements, emanating  from her lean and muscular back. As with the choreography of an Olympian swimmer her moves were small, controlled and superfast.

Though always charming, Zubin Mehta, who has guided the greatest of performers during his now more than 50 years as conductor (he is music director  for life with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), seemed genuinely  impressed with his phenomenally skilled, season’s star debutante.

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.

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