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This article provides an overview of the rich musical traditions in the State of Israel. It deals almost entirely with classical music, not popular music, which has its own unique Israeli story. While not covered in this article, many choral ensembles and composers of Jewish choral music (e.g., Yehezkel Braun, Aharon Harlop) have had a profound influence on Israel’s musical landscape. Reprinted from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website with permission.
Music began to occupy an important place in the cultural life of the Jewish community in the Land of Israel after World War I, with various attempts made by enthusiastic amateurs and a tiny cadre of trained musicians at forming a symphony orchestra, a choral society and even an opera company. Music on a professional level, however, became a major activity only in the 1930s, when hundreds of music teachers and students, composers, instrumentalists and singers, as well as thousands of music lovers, streamed into the country, driven by the threat of Nazism in Europe.
Orchestras, Operas, and More
The Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra (today the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra), founded at the initiative of Polish-born violinist Bronislaw Huberman, gave its first concert in Tel Aviv under the baton of Arturo Toscanini in 1936. It immediately became one of the pivots of the country’s musical life and over the years acquired the reputation as one of the pre-eminent orchestras in the world. Soon after, a radio orchestra was established (today the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra) whose broadcast concerts attracted tens of thousands of listeners.
Additional musical organizations were founded at later dates, including the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Be’er Sheva Sinfonietta, and orchestras based in Haifa, Netanya, Holon, Ramat Gan, and Rishon Lezion, as well as the Israel Kibbutz Orchestra, whose members are drawn from kibbutzim throughout the country.
In the early 1980s, the New Israel Opera began mounting productions on a high professional level, reviving public enthusiasm for operatic works which had declined following the disbanding of the first permanent opera company some years earlier.
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