Countdown to Retirement: A Two-and-a-Half Year Blog

by Peter Marck

March 2019 will mark a huge change in the life of Peter Marck.

Join us on an intimate and personal quest through the tides with a passionate musician and IPO icon, and a dear friend.

For the first time and exclusively to IPO colleagues and followers, a musician of our Orchestra will share insights into the challenging but also liberating process he goes through – towards his final performance with the IPO.



My father was a doctor and he loved his work. At age 74, he didn’t really “retire”; he joined the ranks of the un-employable. For years he continued to “doctor”; driving into Boston to participate in the daily treatment planning sessions, then taking the “T”, and finally stayed at home, keeping up on medicine from journals. He couldn’t really break it off.


When I retire, I won’t have that choice; there’s not very much a bass player can do without an orchestra! My specialty is orchestra and my instrument, the double bass, comes alive in the orchestra. In fact, you can’t have one without a few basses. My 67th birthday, two and a half years away, is hotly pursuing me: sometimes it’s breathing down my neck, always, it’s lurking over the horizon, and occasionally it’s blocking my way. The thought of joining the ranks of the unemployed, or the unemployable, has me in mortal fear. My father chose to remain a doctor albeit unemployed, but after 43 years in the Israel Philharmonic and 54 years of professional music something (and here I pause to weigh my limited or unlimited options) is about to happen to me.


This blog is the countdown to that moment, two and a half years away, when the Israel Philharmonic will send me on my way; my feelings, my fears, my plans… for rest of my life. I’m starting to write in August of 2016 and I’ll try to keep it up for the next 2 years.


In all fairness, I have felt my bonds with the orchestra, music and the bass loosening and I have not been passive about the eminent change. This blog itself could be looked on as “therapeutic”, although it wasn’t conceived as such. I’ve gone further into my hobbies of beer brewing and wine making and they now include actually growing the grapes on our own piece of land. Perhaps that is the “flip-side” of the “exit” and is no less interesting.
But, I will start with the orchestra.


I am in the Country of Last Things, that’s what Paul Auster called it. I started to feel it a few years ago. My name steadily crept up the orchestra seniority list from the top third of the last page (bottom of the ladder), to the anonymity of the second page around the “turn of the century”, to the hallowed first page when you start to get good seats on airplanes, invitations to receptions, and are occasionally asked “How many more years do you have?” My circle of friends on tour became smaller and smaller. The guys who I attached myself to for meals, side trips and general fun, were slowly disappearing from the ranks of the orchestra to be replaced by young players. Of course, I had been closely following the slow turn-over of colleagues in my own section. I had already witnessed the previous generation of bass players leaving, but I wasn’t prepared for the speed with which their footprints were washed away. Names like Rovinsky, Doveleh Katz, Zvi Zohar, Yaari, Ruti, Denasi with all their “shigaonot”- craziness, simply didn’t ring any bells for the new players. Names sometimes live on, as in “the Yaari bass”, “Doveleh’s black bass”, or “the Ruti bass”, but for the most part, the slow attrition by age brought new and better players (with their own craziness) who adopted names but didn’t know from where they had originated. Names became dis-embodied, no one really knowing why they existed except for a few older guys who knew the origin.


But when the succeeding generation started to leave: Nitzberg, Talia, Eli Magen, Gabi Vole and Genia Shatsky, people of my generation or who I had accepted into the orchestra, I knew the day was approaching. As my friend Zvi Zohar said, “Everybody’s getting older, but some of us are getting older faster than others!” Well, I was getting there faster!


The final nail in my retirement coffin was when my partner of 38 years, Teddy Kling, left. Now I’m the old guy in the bass group! Face it, the minute you’re out, you are quickly forgotten.


There is one person, of course who keeps it all in his head: Zubin. Just mention “Itche”, Steinberg, Mense, Melamed, Moishe, Menachem and you can turn the clock back 40 years (in my case). But if you want to, he goes back 55 years, to 1961when he knew the founding members of the orchestra.


Now what about making some wine?


A few years ago I made the switch from the hobbies of baking bread and brewing beer (in addition to running, gardening, some bike riding, and occasionally writing) to making wine. It started with a taste of friends’ homemade wine, advanced to buying 100 kilo of grapes, which led to 70 bottles of very tasty cabernet. The next year, we went in for 300 kilos, and the results were…terrible. Whatever it was, bad grapes, bad technique or bad luck, it led me to the Vitkin Winery where I spent an entire summer seeing how it’s really done. Perhaps if it’s possible to have life-altering experiences at the age of 56, this was my luck. I liked being outside, doing physical labor and learning that nature’s hand is in the good things of life (and the good people). I went on to study, read and listen that winter and the wine got better. I liked the process, and the following winter I was introduced to seriously tasting that red stuff; a whole world opened up. Now I could connect the grapes, the land, the process; taste final product and try to make sense of it all.


People who make wine have lots of “ditties”; gems of wisdom: “If you don’t know how to throw out wine, you don’t know how to make it” meaning if it’s not good, it goes down the drain. Or “Making wine is two thirds water and one thirds wine” meaning that all summer you wash pumps, pipes, presses and bottles; you stand around in puddles of filthy water but you don’t see very much wine. But the ultimate wine saying is, “Wine is made in the vineyard” meaning that you can make wine from all sorts of grapes but you can’t make great wine without great grapes. The truth came home to me in Napa when I tasted a great bottle of wine and asked the owner, “Donny, where’s your winery?” Astonished, he answered, “Me? Make wine? I don’t make wine! I grow grapes!”


(Perhaps there is one more “pearl” relevant to this blog, “Everybody makes the red stuff in the bottle, but only some have a story to tell.”)


The ultimate wine experience is growing the grapes and making the wine: that’s the real story, and my wife and I have embarked on that journey.


What are the “last things” that mark the end of my 40 plus years in the orchestra? The last time I’ll play a piece? The last time I’ll tour to a certain place? The last time I’ll play under a conductor? There must be thousands of “last events” and I probably won’t even realize it, unless they are pretty obvious. This season I played the complete “Fidelio” for the last time. There’s not much chance that it will come around again before I leave; operas don’t get staged very often. By coincidence, it was the first opera I played with the Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta in 1977. We performed 6 times at Caesarea then took it to Avignon, France fully staged in the historic Roman amphitheater. It was my first big IPO tour, and the instruments arrived “melted” because they had been left out in the sun. Basses and cellos suffered the most and the instrument that I took on tour, even with repairs, never really recovered. What a mess! Playing Fidelio brought back all those memories.


April 2017