The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra
Frédéric Chaslin, Music Director
The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, IBA, which celebrated its 80th anniversary last season, was founded as the Palestine Broadcasting Service Orchestra in the late 1930s. In 1948 it became the national radio orchestra and was known as the “Kol Israel Orchestra”. In the 1970s, the orchestra was expanded into the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Israel Broadcasting Authority. As a radio symphony orchestra, the majority of the concerts which the orchestra holds at its resident hall – the Henry Crown Auditorium – are being recorded and broadcasted over IBA’s Kol Ha’musika station.
The current Music Director of the JSO is Maestro Frédéric Chaslin. The orchestra has had seven musical directors hitherto: Mendi Rodan, Lukas Foss, Gary Bertini, Lawrence Foster and David Shallon.
The orchestra maintains a varied repertoire which ranges from the Baroque and the Classical periods through the Romantic period, extending to contemporary composers, many of whom have received their Israeli premières with the JSO. The orchestra was the first Israeli Orchestra to perform the works of renowned composers such as Sofia Gubaidolina, Henry Dutilleux, Alfred Schnittke and others. Since its inception the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has consistently encouraged Israeli composers by commissioning and performing their works.
Over the decades, some of the music world’s legendary musicians have performed with the JSO, with memorable performances by Igor Stravinsky, Otto Klemperer, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern, Pablo Casals, Igor Markevitch, Henryk Szeryng, Yo Yo Ma, Pierre Boulez, Neville Mariner, Christa Ludwig, Tabea Zimmermann, Martha Argerich, Radu Lupu, Jose Carreras, Jean Pierre Rampal, Maxim Vengerov and Yefim Bronfman.
Among the most notable premières performed by the orchestra: the opera David by Milhaud (1954); the cantata Abraham and Isaac bay Stravinsky, conducted by Robert Craft (1964); and The Seven Gates of Jerusalem by Krzysztof Penderecki conducted by Maestro Lorin Maazel, which was commissioned as the conclusion for the Jerusalem 3000 celebrations (1999).
In the past, the orchestra took particular pride in the Liturgical Festival, founded by Maestro Gary Bertini, which presented music of worship from the three major religions. The festival has now been incorporated into the concert season as a series of vocal and liturgical concerts.
The orchestra performs regularly at the Israel Festival. In 2008 the JSO presented the Israeli première of Das Klagende Lied (Mahler) with conductor Uri Segal and the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir.
The JSO often conducts tours in Europe and in the United States, and has played in some of the most prestigious venues, including the Musikvereine in Vienna, the Philharmonie in Cologne and Carnegie Hall in New-York. In February 2015 the JSO was invited by UNESCO to Paris to perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, Babi Yar in a special concert which commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Even more recently, in August 2015 the orchestra toured in Brazil with Maestro Chaslin and Israeli soloist Itamar Zurman and in 2016 toured the US and Japan. In June 2009 the orchestra performed the oratorio Elijah (Mendelssohn) at the closing event of the annual Bachfest in Leipzig.
The orchestra is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Jerusalem City municipality.