Countdown to Retirement: Festival 80

By Peter Marck

Festival 80

We are now starting the 80th Festival of the IPO. I can’t say I remember the 50th or the 60th, but the 40th, my first, I certainly do remember and I hope that the young people in the orchestra will remember the 80th! I remember the concerts with Mazel and Barenboim 40 years ago and thinking that I would be celebrating the 80th year in my last season before retiring; pretty close, only 2 years to go.

Actually, I’m happy to have the additional 2 years; first of all, I’m in great shape as a player, Second, I’m enjoying being the only principal leader in my section, and thirdly, I see an opportunity to help out the guys who will replace me in 2 years. Noam and Uri had their chance last night to lead in the big Gala concert and both did really well. I still have to talk to Zubin about it, but I’m getting a bit ahead of the Festival story.

Ricardo Muti came to perform the exact same program that Arturo Toscanini did 80 years ago on Dec. 26th. During one of the breaks, I went to his room; “Maestro, did you know that our national anthem, HaTikvah is orchestrated by Bernardino Molinari?” (Musical advisor from 1945-1948)

“Yes, he was a real friend of this orchestra. After the war lost his job at Santa Sicilia because they thought he was close to Mussolini. He was not a Fascist, but it was difficult times. He was not political.”

“I’m sure that you are not planning an encore to such a long program, but it could be a very nice gesture to consider playing our anthem at such a historic moment. If there is any question, you could ask your ambassador or better, Mr. Shoshani.”

The next day I brought him Molinari’s letters from the archive, his portrait and dedication to the “Palestine Orchestra” and a photo of Leone Sinigaglia.

“Sinigaglia! Do you know his overture? My next visit, we will play it! A Toscanini favorite!”

At the concert, which was wonderful, Muti did indeed speak about the historical moment, and then we performed Molinari’s orchestration of “HaTikvah” with the audience on its feet singing. (“I rehearsed with my driver…like two drunks singing in the car!”) A truly remarkable concert…started emotional…ended in tears!


A Big Announcement

Of course, the big news was Zubin announcing his retirement. After opening the 2019 season, he will step down as musical director. Looks like I will make it out the door 7 months before him….

Yes, everybody is sad, but in fact it’s very much business as usual, and apparently, the decision was made a year ago and kept secret. Already the discussions about Zubin’s replacement have started and it will be interesting to see what pressures come from outside of and within the orchestra. I hope the orchestra will make a big push for Lahav Shani and create an entirely Israeli product. I think this was Avi Shoshani’s aim, and it should be ours also. In the days before Zubin’s actual announcement, I thought of all the ramifications and how I would feel personally, but now that we are on the other side of the event, it looks perfectly natural. Perhaps it’s a pity that I didn’t have the exposure to another maestro, but on the other hand, maybe it was a great gift to have had only one boss for an entire career. I will be the last one in the IPO to have that gift. When I was in university, my teacher, Oscar said, “If you ever find a music director who you can get along with, stick with him!” Well, I stuck with him.

Zubin is not really a father figure, but “musical director” plays on the same “strings” as “father” and losing one’s conductor of 40 years is a bit like losing a father. There is another issue and that’s my career as a ghost writer; I’ve pretty well perfected the “Zubinesque” style and I’ll miss putting his thought on paper.

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.