The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (abbreviation IPO; Hebrew: התזמורת הפילהרמונית הישראלית, ha-Tizmoret ha-Filharmonit ha-Yisre'elit) is the leading symphony orchestra in Israel.
The Israel Symphony Orchestra was founded by violinist Bronisław Huberman in 1936, at a time when many Jewish musicians were being fired from European orchestras. Its inaugural concert took place in Tel Aviv on December 26, 1936, and was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Its director in the 1939-1945 period was Leo Kestenberg--like many of its members, a German Jew forced out by the Nazi rise to power. During the Second World War the orchestra performed 140 times before Allied soldiers, including an 1942 performance for soldiers of the Jewish Brigade at El Alamein. At the end of the war it performed in recently liberated Belgium.
In 1958, the IPO was awarded the Israel Prize, in music, being the first year in which the Prize was awarded to an organization.
The IPO enjoys frequent international tours, and has performed under some of the world's greatest conductors, including Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta, both of whom are prominent in the orchestra's history. Bernstein maintained close ties with the orchestra from 1947, and in 1988, the IPO bestowed on him the title of Laureate Conductor, which he retained until his death in 1990. Mehta has served as the IPO's Music Advisor since 1968. The IPO did not have a formal music director, but instead "music advisors", until 1977, when Mehta was appointed the IPO's first Music Director. In 1981, his title was elevated to Music Director for Life.Kurt Masur is the IPO's Honorary Guest Conductor, a title granted to him in 1992. Gianandrea Noseda is Principal Guest Conductor, a role previously occupied by Yoel Levi.
With Mehta, the IPO has made a number of recordings for Decca. Under the baton of Bernstein, the IPO also recorded his works and those of Igor Stravinsky. The IPO has also collaborated with Japanese composer Yoko Kanno in the soundtrack of the anime Macross Plus.
As of 2006, the composers whose works have been most frequently performed by the IPO were Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Dvořák. The initial concerts of the Palestine Orchestra in December 1936, conducted by Toscanini, featured the music of Richard Wagner. However, after the Kristallnacht pogroms in November 1938, the orchestra has maintained a de facto ban on Wagner's work, due to that composer's antisemitism and the association of his music with Nazi Germany.
The Secretary-General of the orchestra is Avi Shoshani. The IPO has a subscriber base numbering 26,000. Commentators have noted the musically conservative tastes of the subscriber base, although the IPO is dedicated to performing new works by Israeli composers, such as Avner Dorman.
Musical Advisors/Music Directors:
Zubin Mehta (1968-) (Musical Advisor 1968-77; Music Director thereafter),
Jean Martinon (1957-59),
Paul Paray (1949-51),
Leonard Bernstein (1947-49; Laureate Conductor 1988-90),
William Steinberg (1936-38),
The orchestra's performance in London on September 1, 2011 was disrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters. The concert was part of the BBC Proms. The radio broadcast was interrupted, but the concert was broadcast again a few days later. The orchestra's secretary-general Avi Shoshani declared to London's The Times newspaper that the orchestra was unlikely to ever perform in the UK again. Nobody was prosecuted for the disruptions, partly because the management of the Royal Albert Hall, where the concert took place, declined to cooperate with a group of Israel-supporting lawyers.
American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra:
American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (AFIPO) is a non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining the financial future of the Israel Philharmonic. Necessitated by the lack of substantial Israeli government subsidy or endowment for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, AFIPO's purpose was crystallized in 1980 through the joint vision of Fredric Mann and Zubin Mehta, who created an endowment fund in the United States to ensure the IPO's future. AFIPO seeks to broaden the reach of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and bring its message through music throughout the world. The monies raised by AFIPO are directed towards a fund which assists with the operational support of the orchestra and its musical education programs throughout Israel. Based in New York, the organization cultivates support for the Orchestra by hosting events and encouraging supporters all over North America to contribute to the Israel Philharmonic, a cultural ambassador of the state of Israel.