The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) is one of Israel's oldest and most influential cultural institutions. Since its founding in 1936, the IPO has dedicated itself to presenting the world's greatest music to audiences in Israel and around the world. Founded by Polish violinist Bronisław Huberman, the IPO represents the fulfillment of his dream "to unite the desire of the country for an orchestra with the desire of the Jewish musicians for a country." Huberman spent countless hours persuading first-chair musicians of Eastern European and German orchestras, who had lost their jobs as a result of Nazism, to immigrate to Palestine. In doing so, he created an "orchestra of soloists" which, under the esteemed leadership of Zubin Mehta, continues to absorb new immigrants and act as a dynamic, global community for musicians from across the world.
Major soloists and conductors have always performed with the IPO. Its inaugural concert was conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who believed that his participation was a means to demonstrate his opposition to fascism. Among Israelis, the memory of IPO Laureate Conductor Leonard Bernstein leading the orchestra in front of 5,000 soldiers on the Negev dunes in 1948 remains a historic moment. The orchestra has also enjoyed associations with such renowned artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Yoel Levi, Yo-Yo Ma, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Itzhak Perlman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Arthur Rubinstein, Gil Shaham, Isaac Stern, and Pinchas Zukerman.
The IPO is Israel's premier cultural ambassador and travels extensively throughout the world, particularly to countries where there is little or no Israeli representation. The goodwill created by these tours--which have included historic visits to Japan, Argentina, Poland, Hungary, Russia, China, and India--is of enormous value to the State of Israel. In 2005, the orchestra traveled to Berlin to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany; to London, Paris, and Geneva on a tour co-sponsored by the Weizmann and Pasteur institutes; and to South America, where the orchestra visited eight cities in 20 days.
Due to the efforts of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Foundation, the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and the generous support of donors worldwide, the orchestra returned to its home at Tel Aviv's newly renamed Charles Bronfman Auditorium in March 2013 after extensive renovations.
Born in Mumbai, Zubin Mehta grew up in a musical environment. His father, Mehli Mehta, founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra and was music director of the American Youth Symphony in Los Angeles. Zubin Mehta's initial field of study was medicine, but he abandoned it at the age of 18 to attend the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien. Seven years later, he conducted both the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Berliner Philharmoniker. He rapidly became one of the world's most sought after conductors, holding directorships with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (1961-1967), Los Angeles Philharmonic (1962-1978), New York Philharmonic (1978-1991), and Bayerische Staatsoper (1998-2006). The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) appointed Mr. Mehta music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and music director for life in 1981. Combining concerts, recordings, and tours, Mr. Mehta has conducted thousands of performances on five continents with the IPO. Since 1985, he has also acted as chief conductor of the music festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Italy, becoming honorary conductor for life in 2006.
Mr. Mehta has received countless awards and distinctions, including the Kennedy Center Honors; the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony in India; the President's Medal of Distinction from Israeli President Shimon Peres; the Praemium Imperiale from the Japanese imperial family; honorary doctorates from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel; a special recognition at the ceremony of the Israel Prize; and a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv, and an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Vienna's Musikverein. In 2006, his autobiography--Die Partitur meines Leben: Erinnerungen (The Score of My Life: Memories)--was published in Germany and Israel.
Zubin Mehta continues to support the discovery and promotion of musical talent all over the world. Together with his brother Zarin, he is co-chairman of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Mumbai, where more than 200 children are educated in Western classical music.
Gil Shaham is one of the foremost violinists of our time. His flawless technique, combined with his inimitable warmth and generosity of spirit, has solidified his renown as an American master. The Grammy Award winner, also named Musical America's Instrumentalist of the Year (2012), is sought after around the world for concerto appearances with leading orchestras and conductors, and regularly gives recitals and performs with ensembles on the world's great concert stages and at the most prestigious festivals.
Highlights of recent years include the acclaimed recording and performances of J. S. Bach's complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin. In addition to championing these solo works, he will join pianist and long-time duo partner Akira Eguchi in recitals throughout North America, Europe, and Asia in the coming seasons.
Mr. Shaham regularly appears with such orchestras as the Berliner Philharmonikier, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and San Francisco Symphony. He also has held multi-year residencies with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, SWR Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, and Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Shaham has more than two dozen concerto and solo CDs to his name, earning multiple Grammy Awards, a Grand Prix du Disque, Diapason d'Or, and Gramophone Editor's Choice honors. Many of these recordings appear on Canary Classics, the label he founded in 2004. His CDs include 1930s Violin Concertos, Vol. 1; Sarasate: Virtuoso Violin Works; Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies; The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin / Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; and many more. His second volume in the 1930s Violin Concertos series--which includes Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 and Bartók's Violin Concerto No. 2--was nominated for a Grammy.
Mr. Shaham was awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 1990, and received the coveted Avery Fisher Prize in 2008. He plays the 1699 "Countessa, Princess de Polignac, Bardsley" Stradivarius. He lives in New York City with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony, and their three children.