Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Smiles,Pranks and Coughs at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra"

“Smiles, Pranks and Coughs at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra” (ISBN 965-90982-0-0, Rotem Publishing Ltd.) is a book of amusing anecdotes compiled by Yaacov Mishori; Mishori, now retired, served as principal horn player of the IPO, as IPO spokesman and was a member of the management. Mishori has written other books and today teaches at the Buchmann-Mehta High School and presents a weekly radio program.

Beginning with Mishori’s early musical experiences and his joining the IPO, the book presents a wealth of hilarious stories about the orchestra, its players and conductors, its audiences and its performances in Israel and abroad. The book gives one a glimpse with a difference into the colorful history of the IPO since its founding in 1936. Imagine Maestro Zubin Mehta changing a concerto scheduled for a concert, but without letting the soloist, violinist Uri Pianka, in on the prank! This really happened at a concert one year around Purim. All ended well when Pianka, somewhat surprised, managed to play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto by heart instead of that of Tchaikovsky. At a concert performed on a naval barge to an audience of soldiers, tourists and Bedouin at Sharm-El-Sheikh in 1973, Mishori recounts how a strong wind began to blow just as the orchestra was performing Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony, causing the players’ music to fly off into the sea or in the direction of the audience.

However, there is more to this book than stories of eccentric conductors and the suggestion of a “Symphony for Orchestra and Coughing Audience” to be composed for and performed by the IPO. Mishori nostalgically takes us back to the Tel Aviv of many years ago. Illustrated by Amnon Katz, the book has been translated into English from the original Hebrew version by Tal Rockman. I have read better translations than this one but musicians and music-lovers alike will, nevertheless, laugh and enjoy reading this collection of stories. The English translation of “Smiles, Pranks and Coughs at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra” can be ordered by calling Rotem Publishing Ltd. at 077-3330775.

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