A Frenchman in love with Jerusalem

JSO’s Frederic Chaslin reflects on five years at the helm and his dream of a symphony hall in the capital.

MAESTRO Frederic Chaslin believes that Israel’s capital deserves a symphony hall of its own.  (photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)
MAESTRO Frederic Chaslin believes that Israel’s capital deserves a symphony hall of its own.
(photo credit: SASSON TIRAM)
 • By MAXIM REIDER The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra opens its 80th season with two concert programs under its artistic director for the past five years, Frederic Chaslin, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv between October 18-23.
On the eve of the season opening, Chaslin spoke about his baby in a phone interview from Paris, where he lives on a boat on the River Seine, while driving home from another rehearsal.
“I think what has been achieved over the years is the improved sound of the orchestra. We’ve also hired new players in several sections – the best players available, which is most important, because they will stay with the orchestra for a long time,” said Chaslin.
“We have also reinforced the repertoire. There are many fine pieces in the orchestra’s repertoire, but it is not systematic, like not all of Beethoven’s nine symphonies are included. The same goes for symphonies by Brahms and Tchaikovsky. I think that a good orchestra needs to have all major pieces.”
With all due respect to the old and tried repertoire, the orchestra keeps discovering young and talented Israeli composers and commissions them to compose pieces.
“For an orchestra of this size it is important to bring big names – leading soloists and conductors, and we are doing it – but it takes time,” Chaslin explained.
Another aim of the French maestro is to record the Jerusalem Symphony on major labels – which also demands time and a lot of work. Meanwhile, all of its concerts are recorded live. “This makes me happy,” he insists, adding that “this is important to keep these recordings for the archive.
I have a sound cloud with about 100 recordings of the JSO,” says Chaslin.
Having a symphony hall in Jerusalem is Chaslin’s biggest dream.
“Meanwhile, we perform in the Jerusalem Theater, where we are accepted and sometimes just tolerated.
I believe that a city like Jerusalem needs to have a symphony hall of its own, like the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, which has become an attraction by itself – people come from the entire world to see it.”
Chaslin says that “for more than 20 years I have not lost my enthusiasm about Jerusalem and I believe that this great city deserves the best.” He regrets that he, who is a citizen of Jerusalem only is his heart, “is more enthusiastic about the city and its cultural life than local politicians.
“We’ve never seen the mayor of Jerusalem at our concerts in five years and I don’t think this is normal.
It’s good that a French musician loves Jerusalem, but Jerusalem should start to love itself and to understand that the orchestra is its best ambassador.
“Sometimes, when I say that we need a symphony hall, we need a big orchestra and we need to make recordings with big companies, people say me I am a dreamer. But I reply – excuse me, this country is based on a dream, a much bigger one than I ask for. In the country that is built on a dream, every dream has to be possible. This is my message.”
The festive program features on October 18 and 22 at the Jerusalem Theater the world première of “Open, Closed, Open,” dedicated to JSO’s 80th Season, as well as Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy for Piano, Choir and Orchestra” and Symphony No. 9, with local and international soloists, conducted by maestro Chaslin. The Monteverdi Choir from Hamburg under Gothart Stier, and the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber Choir under Kate Belshé, participate.
October 22nd in Henry Crown Hall. At the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Chaslin will conduct Haydn’s “Missa in Tempore Belli” and Fauré’s “Requiem.”
For more details: www.jso.co.il/en