The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at Orchestra Hall Review – A French Connection

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, led by acclaimed conductor Zubin Mehta performing at Symphony Center in Chicago was an opportunity not to be missed.  Conductor and orchestra enjoy an outstanding reputation. The evening was very moving. There was a lot of France in this program as well as Israel. Standing for the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikva, many wondered if the Marseilles would follow but instead it was the strange sound of a bass drum that began the first number.  The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and Zubin Mehta conductor presented an evening of music that was rich and varied as well as moving.


The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, photo credit: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra


The program included: Bardanashvili A Journey to the End of the Millennium, Ravel La valse, Beethoven Symphony No. 3 (Eroica).

The program was essentially two thirds French.  There was Ravel, but Beethoven was strongly influenced by Napoleon Bonaparte when he wrote Symphony No. 3.  In addition, seated near me were four young people from France in Chicago for a year. I spoke with Louis from Paris.  He is studying Civil Engineering at IIT and this was his first visit to Symphony Center and he was very impressed.   Anna is from Brittany and is interning at The French American Chamber of Commerce and she has been to Symphony Center several times.



Josef Bardanahvili

The first piece by Josef Bardanashvili who was born in Batumi, Georgia was A Journey to the End of the Millennium (Symphonic Poem).  This work combined themes from an opera he wrote.  Modern in feeling, there was use of percussion in contrast to a broad array of lyrical sounds from the strings. The sounds were not dissonant, but the use of a wide range of percussive sounds gave the piece power and energy but not cohesion. It was hard to hold on to any themes because there were continuous changes.  Just as I was beginning to be really moved by this piece-it ended.


Zubin Mehta

The first half also included La valse (Choreographic poem for Orchestra) by Maurice Ravel who was born in Cibourne, France.  This work was composed in 1919 at the request of impresario Sergei Diaghilev and finished in 1920 but it was never staged.  I usually find myself carried away by this work, and I can hardly sit still, it is so moving.  Interestingly, following the first piece I heard more percussion in this gentle work than I had previously noticed.  It was lovely to hear this.


Zubin Mehta

After intermission, Zubin Mehta addressed the audience, commented on the horror that had taken place in Paris and asked that we think of that as we listened to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 in E-flat Major, Op.55 (Eroica).  Interestingly, Beethoven, born in Bonn Germany, intended to name the work for Bonaparte and his fight against tyranny.  But he was infuriated when he learned that Napoleon had appointed himself emperor and, instead,  selected the name Sinfonia eroica (Heroic symphony).  I don’t know if this comment impacted the listening but of the many, many times that I have heard this symphony played  I never felt  the reach to the heights of emotion and beauty I did that night.  This work introduced a new kind of music to its audience when it was first performed, and continues to thrill audiences today. How fortunate we were to hear this fine orchestra.


Zubin Mehta

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is one of Israel’s oldest and most influential cultural institutions.  Since its founding in 1936, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has dedicated itself to presenting the world’s greatest music to audiences in Israel and around the world.  


The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra


 Photos:Courtesy of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

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