In Jerusalem, an Ideal Audience for Chamber Music

Visiting Palestine in 1936, the famed conductor Arturo Toscanini commented that “even the peasants here know music.” (The peasants in question were in fact German doctors- and lawyers-turned-kibbutzniks.) Reviewing September’s Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival, Norman Lebrecht argues that Israel can still provide “what every musician seeks most, namely a public that is as passionate and knowledgeable as himself.”

The first thing [performers at the festival] encounter is silence. In four days of concerts, twice a day, I did not hear a single cough. “The best concentration anywhere,” says Elena Bashkirova, the festival’s artistic director. Programs are unyieldingly highbrow. Concerts contain at least five major works and last two-and-a- half hours. There are no encores. The public leaves the premises deep in thought. “The quality of the public is unique,” says Bashkirova. “If I put on something difficult, . . . they don’t complain. On the contrary, people come to me and say, ‘Please keep doing this, we want to learn.’” . . .

Bashkirova thinks her ideal audience arises from a particular Jerusalem tension which drives the rest of the world to distraction. She may well be right. But I can’t help blaming a music industry that reduced the art to ubiquity. We are never more than an arm’s length away from a masterpiece, on record or online. We are never more than a short flight away from any piece we might wish to hear. Music has lost value. We have forgotten the effort that it requires, as performer and listener. I found it again in Jerusalem.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Arts & Culture, Classical music, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria