Patience and persistence

At 30, Israeli-born conductor Noam Zur already has 10 years of international experience under his baton.

Conductor Noam Zur 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Conductor Noam Zur 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The decision to become a conductor came to him an early age, says Noam Zur, a young Israeli conductor who has a successful career abroad and is leading the Rishon Lezion Symphony Orchestra next week.
“I enjoyed playing trombone in the orchestra, and before that playing piano, but I always knew that for me this was not enough. I wanted to take a more decisive role in music making. I studied composition, but I never planned to become a composer, so conducting came as a natural choice,” says the 30- year-old as he takes a break after rehearsal.
Zur, who is currently residing in Germany, was the principal resident conductor at the Aalto Theater Essen.
He has appeared with the Wiener Volksoper, Bratislava Radio Orchestra, Moscow Virtuosi, the Jerusalem Symphony, the Netanya Kibbutz Chamber Orchestra, Kammerphilharmonie Frankfurt and served as an assistant to maestro Pierre Boulez – and this is only a part of his engagements.
He recollects, “I was about 16 when I tried conducting an orchestra section, and I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Although he learned from conductors and teachers like Zubin Mehta, Leonard Slatkin, Ilya Musin and Neeme Jarvi, he considers Noam Sheriff and Itay Talgam as his major teachers.
“People talk about special talent for conducting,” he says. “Maybe there is something specific, but above all it is about spending years of hard work, of pedantic and scrupulous preparations before conducting each and every piece of music. Also, at the beginning of your career, you need a lot of patience when the invitations are scarce and sometimes fall on the same date,” he adds with a sigh. “Persistence, persistence and persistence is the rule of the game, and it pays off. I don’t want to brag, but there aren’t many conductors at the age of 30 that already have 10 years of professional experience to their credit.”
As for his preferred repertoire, Zur admits that he usually loves most the pieces that he currently conducts. “I grew up on mostly symphonic music, and only later, almost by chance, I discovered the world of opera conducting, which I now equally enjoy.”
He adds that he is attracted to 20thcentury music, and this affection is growing.
“I don’t think that performing only the old and familiar music is a good idea; it turns these pieces into kind of museum exhibits. In the museums of today I see Rembrandt next to Picasso. Just like in a theater – within one season we can see plays from different epochs, and it’s OK.
But when in a concert a piece from 1911 is performed, the program is seen as revolutionary. In every place I go to, I try to change it. That said, I don’t think that presenting an entire program of contemporary music is the appropriate response to this situation. I believe that working connections between the living composers and performers are essential, and contemporary music is to be performed, even if not all the works are masterpieces. We wrongly think that music of the past was better than that written nowadays – we just see what has gone through the filter of 200 or so years.”
The current concert program features Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements; Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5; and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, K.488 (soloist Boris Giltburg).
For reservations: (03) 948-439/40