orit fogel 248 88.
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Tonight, the Ra'anana Symphony Orchestra opens its season with an almost all-Mozart program, also featuring the world premiere of Michael Volpe's Clear Skies.
"This is our 18th season," says the orchestra's director-general and founder, Orit Fogel, proudly, "and I am somewhat moved, since in Judaism [the number] 18 is a symbol of life."
The orchestra was founded in 1991, when a powerful wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union brought a wave of musicians to Israel's shores. "The Government aimed to give them occupational retraining, but I thought, people become musicians for a good reason, changing the profession is hard for them" Fogel says. "It was also clear for me that we should profit from the effort and money invested in their educations abroad." From there it was only one step to the idea of creating an orchestra in Ra'anana.
Business management was not exactly what Fogel studied in university. But having been born into a family of German Jews, she was imbued with both a rich cultural background and an understanding of the importance of correct human resources and money management.
After studying architecture in her native Haifa, Fogel spent two years in Paris, but following a divorce she came back. A strong urge to contribute to her country brought her to the Israel Forum, a Jewish Agency-backed apolitical organization devoted to developing connections between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.
"Living abroad," she says, "you realize that this relationship is mostly one-sided and based on fundraising for the needs of Israel. In the forum, which included quite a few top Israeli personalities, we tried to create ties that could be enriching to the both sides."
But the big aliya - the mass exodus of Russian Jewry in the early 1990s - put an end to theoretical disputes; it was the time to act. And Fogel did, writing some 700 letters to various official organizations in an attempt to explain that a new orchestra incorporating FSW musicians would contribute a great deal towards educating the country's younger generation.
Still, funding was not the only problem for the project; finding a niche for the new orchestra was no less important.
"We knew for the outset that we weren't going to compete with the overcrowded Tel Aviv stage," Fogel recalls. "Instead, we decided to perform throughout the country, as well as to approach a variety of - sometimes not-so-obvious - audiences."
These days, the orchestra, which gives almost 400 concerts a year (including ensembles), performs not only in so-called traditional concerts, but plays in festivals and TV broadcasts, cooperates with the Israeli Opera and shares its music with senior citizens and even with the homeless. And, of course, they keep running educational programs for kids, from the kindergarten and up.
"I don't believe that after hearing classical music for the first time people will rush to buy a subscription to our orchestra, but listening to a live orchestra, seeing what classical discipline is about, is important, especially for kids, who are gorged on mass TV culture."
BY ITS NATURE, the orchestra has always served as a home for young musicians and newcomers alike. The noted Georgian composer Yosef Bardanashvili served as composer in residence soon after his arrival in Israel, the multi-talented singer/pianist/translator/parodist/conductor Dudi Sebba is the orchestra's chief conductor, while another young Israeli maestro, Omer Wellber, is its artistic director.
"It's natural for young musicians to leave in search for broader horizons, but Omer, despite his stunning success abroad, after five years in the position, has decided to keep his ties with the orchestra, and this is great, because he as an insider's understanding of its objectives," she says.
Fogel sees the orchestra as a community endeavor. "In Ra'anana," she says, "people greet the musicians in the street, little kids sit in the foyer before the beginning of a concert, hoping for empty seats in the hall, and, yes, I do see the orchestra as a family, as an amalgamation of newcomers and locals. Those who came to the first auditions with their suitcases now have apartments of their own, their kids study in universities, work in hi tech and are army officers."
Catalan Maestro Salvador Brotons leads the orchestra's opening concert, which features the Overture from Mozart's Don Giovanni, his Symphony #38 and his Piano Concerto #20 (with young Azeri pianist Murad Adigezalzadeh as a soloist), as well as the world premier of Clear Skies, by Michael Volpe, dedicated to the memory of Chines diplomat Feng Shan Ho, who rescued thousands of Jews during WWII.
Volpe's piece is the first in a series that the orchestra is running this year, in collaboration with Yad Vashem, made up of pieces by local composers that are each dedicated to a different righteous gentile.
The concerts take place October 28, 29 and 31 at the Ra'anana Music and Arts Center at 8:30 p.m.