debuted under the baton of Arturo Toscanini and often worked with guest maestro
Leonard Bernstein. Founded as the
Palestine Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) is one of
the world’s most prestigious orchestras.
Yet, their founding members were very nearly caught up in the tragedy of
the Holocaust. Bronisław Huberman’s
tireless efforts to save Europe’s most accomplished and at-risk Jewish
musicians and the subsequent creation of Israel’s national symphony are
documented in Josh Aronson’s Orchestra of
opens this Friday in New York.
was a child prodigy who played around the world. Yet, he was also a politically aware Zionist,
who had no illusions about the state of Europe in the early 1930’s. Obviously, the colonial territory the British
called Palestine held great significance for him. For years, Jewish immigrants had come there,
hoping to realize the Zionist dream home by home. However, the British occupiers halted Jewish
immigration in response to Arab riots at a time when it was most needed.
to establish a symphony for the yet to be recognized nation, Huberman doggedly
attempted to work around the various restrictions imposed by the British. Indeed, much of his heroics involved the
paper-chase for this or that travel document.
There was an important goal in sight.
As a principled anti-Fascist, Toscanini had agreed to conduct their premiere
Exiles captures the
spirit of a certain group of people at a certain point of time for whom life
and art were intrinsically intertwined.
Indeed, the founding of the Symphony was critically important for the
early émigrés, who dearly missed the refined culture of pre-war Europe. Aronson maintains an appropriately respectful
tone throughout, but he stages a number of unnecessary dramatic recreations. For the most part, they are not very
dramatic, aside from Alex Ansty’s agreeable appearance as the larger than life
helpful context provided by an elite cast of interview subjects, including Itzhak
Perlman, Indian-born IPO conductor and music director Zubin Mehta, and the Grammy
Award-winning Joshua Bell (who currently performs on Huberman’s Stradivarius), Exiles is classy and authoritative. Regrettably, it comes at a time when the
civilized world is becoming less civilized.
Just over a year ago, an IPO performance in London was disrupted by
extremists who were never prosecuted, partly due to the Royal Albert Hall’s
refusal to pursue trespass charges (bad show chaps). While conventional in its approach, Orchestra of Exiles is an elegant and
informative film. Recommended for
classical music connoisseurs and those want (or need) a fuller appreciation of
Israeli cultural history, it opens this Friday (10/19) in New York at the Quad
Labels: Bronislaw Huberman, Documentary, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra