Harvey Bordowitz, conductor and founder of the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra, has reason to smile.
The orchestra, which he founded 25 years ago and has conducted ever since, is celebrating its silver anniversary this year, in a program beginning in November and culminating in June 2006, packed with guest conductors and soloists from around the world.
"I think that when someone is involved in doing something, there is not so much time to reflect," Bordowitz told The Jerusalem Post from his home in Moshav Avihayil, near Netanya. He spoke of the orchestra with the pride of a parent speaking of a child's accomplishments.
"For 25 years now I've been building it, nurturing it, into what it is today a true force on the music scene in Israel. Sometimes it takes a 25th anniversary to look back and see what a life's work really is an orchestra that has been on the radio, on television, has performed at Yad Vashem, has been a force for creativity, a force for culture, a force for enjoyment. I look back it and say, my God, that's a life's work."
Bordowitz, 58, was born in Brooklyn, New York. During a visit to Israel as a staff member of the Conservative youth group United Synagogue Youth, he fell in love with the group's tour guide, a young woman named Sara, originally from Manchester, England. They got married, and lived in New York for three and a half years as he finished his studies. They returned to Israel for good shortly after. Sara recently completed a master's degree in astrophysics. The couple have and three sons, and musical interest has clearly been passed on to the next generation. Nechemia, 27, and his twin brothers Amos & Hillel, 23, all studied piano as children. Nechemia is currently a drummer in a rock band in New York, Amos plays the clarinet and inherited his father's love for classical music, and Hillel is interested in alternative rock music.
Bordowitz says his infatuation with classical music is less a reflection of his upbringing than of an evolution in musical taste after being exposed to it at university. Originally, he studied French literature, obtaining a bachelor's degree from Columbia University, as well as religious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, but he changed paths when the music overtook him.
"Classical music was not part of my parents' home," said Bordowitz. "Although I played clarinet and trumpet, as well as cello and piano (both very badly), the music I listened to was the music of the day, what you would hear on the radio, like 60s rock music. I only discovered classical music in college and fell in love with it. I had subscriptions to the orchestra, chamber music, opera and ballet. I just really went off the deep end."
After gaining a master's degree in conducting, musicology, and opera from Brooklyn College, Bordowitz moved to Israel and started the orchestra shortly after. Though he had done some conducting and stage directing of opera and musicals in the US, his current role as conductor of the orchestra began in 1976, when he was hired by city of Herzliya to start what was at the time an amateur orchestra. Four years later the Herzliya Chamber Orchestra was reborn into a fully professional ensemble, performing subscription series for classical music lovers throughout the coastal region.
Bordowitz said that at the time of the formation of the orchestra there were 59 subscribers and 15 musicians in the orchestra. Currently, though the core of the orchestra is comprised of 19 string players, it's a flexible ensemble which sometimes expands to 40 players, depending on the program. Truly a diverse group of musicians from many different backgrounds, the orchestra has included members from the former USSR, Romania, Singapore, and Switzerland. Bordowitz also says that the audience that comes to listen are also a varied group, including international diplomats from Herzliya's foreign embassies.
The orchestra plays a range of music, from symphonic to music written for chamber orchestra. Bordowitz, excited about the coming year's celebratory season, described the programing of music as a complex process.
"It's really slow, long and agonizing," he said. "There is a process of ideas ripening and coming together, but it takes a year to really plan a season deciding on a repertoire, inviting and scheduling guests soloists, guest conductors (including both native Israeli and international stars) all of these factors have to come together into one long arc of dramatic tension from the opening to the end of the season."
This season will start with a concert called "Ebony & Ivory," opening with a piano concerto by Andre Hajdu, Mozart's "Elvira Madigan" piano concerto (no. 21) and after the intermission, Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto (no. 5).
"The idea is to somehow combine famous pieces, probably familiar to the audience, with those are new and exciting," said Bordowitz.
The orchestra's performances, funded by the city's department of culture, take place at the brand new 764-seat Herzliya Performing Arts Center. Each concert is preceded by a half-hour lecture by Bordowitz in both Hebrew and English on the composers, musical styles, and historical contexts of the music to be performed that evening.
Bordowitz credits Herzliya mayor Yael German for her assistance and drive in making Herzliya a center of the Arts.
"Ever since 1998, she has really placed culture on her banner, she has given us moral encouragement and otherwise. She feels music, theater and museums are the lifeblood of the people, so we have had a flourishing in the last decade because culture is so important to her."
After 25 years, Bordowitz has a reason to smile as he sits back and reflects. He remains absorbed by the orchestra, the music, and the city of Herzliya, and hopes to see continued growth in years ahead.
"Just as we say 'all roads lead to Rome,' I hope as we go forward, we'll be able to say, all roads lead to Herzliya," said Bordowitz.
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