The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was the brainchild of Bronislaw Huberman, the leading Polish-born Jewish violinist. A child prodigy, Huberman rose to fame at a young age touring the globe. In later life he became interested in politics, and in 1920 put his career on hold to study at the Sorbonne. When Hitler rose to power in the early 1930s and began instituting strong anti-Semitic policies, Huberman feared for the destruction and annihilation of Jewish cultural life.
In 1934, in response to this crisis, the violinist had the vision of creating an all Jewish orchestra in Palestine. Huberman spent two years auditioning musicians across Europe. He chose only the very best from the leading ensembles, creating what would be known as an “orchestra of soloists.” Nearly 1,000 musicians and their families immigrated to Palestine and escaped the horrors of the Holocaust because of Huberman. He was able to not only preserve Jewish artistic culture and establish a world-class orchestra but also undoubtedly save hundreds of lives.
On December 26, 1936, the Palestine Symphony played its first concert in Tel Aviv under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. A staunch anti-Fascist, the legendary conductor enthusiastically accepted Huberman’s request to join the Symphony as a demonstration against Nazism, declaring, “I am doing this for humanity.” The public reception to this inaugural performance was overwhelming, with crowds standing outside near the windows and even climbing on rooftops in an attempt to hear the Symphony. The ovation at the end of the night lasted over 30 minutes.