When the Polish violinist Bronisław Huberman founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, he asked Toscanini to conduct a benefit concert in New York for the new orchestra. Toscanini decided to travel to Palestine in December of 1936, train the orchestra, and conduct the first concerts of what later became known as the Israel Philharmonic, composed of refugee Jewish musicians who had escaped persecution. Toscanini refused to accept a fee or reimbursement for his travel expenses.
Toscanini: “I had to show my solidarity.” “It is everyone’s duty to help in this cause according to one’s means.”
The news of Toscanini’s plans to inaugurate the orchestra attracted more musicians to join the orchestra and resulted in very successful fund-raising for the new venture. Toscanini stayed for more than a month. The dress rehearsal for the first concert was open to artists and workers. “The public’s response was one of overwhelming emotion. The president of the Hebrew University broke into uncontrollable tears.” There were nine sold-out concerts in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, and concerts in Cairo and Alexandria. In Tel Aviv, crowds stood outside near the windows and some people even climbed onto the roof attempting to hear. At the end of the first concert, the ovation lasted for more than thirty minutes.
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Tune into the PBS premiere of Orchestra of Exiles on Sunday, April 14, 10 pm.
In The Real Toscanini, Cesare Civetta presents an intriguing collection of vivid, one-of-a-kind interviews with artists who performed with Toscanini. A portrait of the inner workings of the maestro emerges through these extensive conversations, conducted by the author over a period of 20 years, together with other firsthand recollections. These accounts clarify Toscanini’s philosophy, musical style, and techniques. They depict a man tormented by inner demons of anger and depression, which were easily triggered by his frustration at being unable to produce the musical ideal in his mind’s ear.