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Music to Ring out from Mountaintop

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This serene mountaintop in the Judean Hills will be the scene of a musical light-and-sound show next October 13, winding up Israel’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Next October, the ancient hills will echo to the music of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its conductor and musical director, Indian-born Zubin Mehta.

Seating is being arranged for 4,000 at the open-air concert, a $1.5 million event initiated by the Keren Or, a non-profit Jewish organization in France that raises funds to help Israeli soldiers and for cultural causes in Israel.

During the performance, the IPO will be seated in a specially designed and constructed acoustic shell, set against the backdrop of the Dead Sea far below and the dramatic mass of Mount Masada above.

The featured work will be Mahler’s Second Symphony, known as the “Resurrection Symphony.” It was selected, according to the organizers, “because of the direct correlation between its five movements and the history of the Jewish people.”

According to the organizers, “The first movement begins with depicting the suffering of the Israelites’ dispersion, and the symphony concludes with a return, or an awakening, which symbolizes the re-born Jewish state.”

According to Mehta, who visited Masada Monday, that was not Mahler’s interpretation.

Mahler, who converted to Catholicism, never showed any interest in his Jewish heritage, describing the symphony he wrote at the turn of the century as “posing the questions ‘Why have you lived? why have you suffered? Has it all been a huge, frightful joke?'”

But Mehta, who said “the IPO was born to play Mahler,” admitted that although he did not select the work to be performed, he fully endorsed the choice of the concert organizers.

His main concern is with the logistics of the event. Not only the masses of equipment, but the musicians and the audience can reach the mountaintop only by a narrow, winding road carved into the face of the cliff.

Soloists at the Masada concert will be the French mezzo soprano Florence Quivar, and Israeli soprano Sylvia Greenberg. At the close of the concert, 12 groups of children will descend the mountainside bearing torches, while a fireworks display will light the sky overhead.

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