Originally published at: https://jewishoriginal.com/birth-israel-philharmonic-orchestra-1936/
On this day, December 26th, in 1936, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (the IPO) played its first concert in Tel Aviv. Founded by Polish-Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, it was originally called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, reflecting the then British Mandatory Palestine.
In 1936, amidst rising antisemitism and Nazism, Jews faced bans in European orchestras. The IPO offered refuge to musicians fleeing Europe during the Fifth Aliyah, a significant wave of immigration.
The IPO, starting with 75 musicians, many persuaded by Huberman to immigrate, held its inaugural concert at Tel Aviv’s Levant Fair, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This event symbolized a fight against fascism and a restoration of humanity’s goodness.
Post-inception, the Orchestra toured the Middle East, performed for Allied forces in WWII, and united diverse musicians through music.
Upon Israel’s independence in 1948, it was renamed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. It played a pivotal role in national events, including the Declaration of Independence ceremony.
In 1957, the Fredric R. Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv became the Orchestra’s home, allowing performances for larger audiences.
Zubin Mehta became the first Music Director in 1977, leading the Orchestra to international acclaim and numerous recordings.
The IPO, awarded the Israel Prize in music in 1958, continues to thrive with support from global organizations, upholding a message of peace and cultural prosperity through music.
Today, we celebrate its founding and its enduring legacy.