focus on

Haifa Symphony is college bound


The Haifa Symphony Orchestra is hitting the ground in the Bronx next week for the very first time.

The group is scheduled to play compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Carl Maria von Weber during its concert on Feb. 6 at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts. The show is part of the orchestra’s American tour that includes 38 concerts in 15 states. It is their only performance in New York this year.

Founded in 1950, the Haifa Symphony Orchestra is a hive of cultural activity in northern Israel, offering a diverse range of concerts featuring classical, cantorial and popular music. Groups affiliated with the orchestra perform operas, big band and choral concerts. The company works to promote original Israeli music and often features Israeli soloists and conductors during its performances.

Conductor Boguslaw Dawidow will lead the Haifa Symphony Orchestra during its performance at Lehman next week.

Mr. Dawidow, who was first invited to conduct the orchestra in 2011, said he was immediately drawn to the Haifa musicians and their sound.

“From the first moment I began working with them, I felt a connection,” Mr. Dawidow said. “I knew it was going to work well then.”

Born and raised in Poland, the conductor said he cultivated a passion for music at a young age and has fervently pursued it ever since.

Neighbors migrating from Poland after World War II left an upright piano behind to Mr. Dawidow’s family. He started playing the instrument at the age of four. “Touching music for the first time was something special for me,” he said. “It’s important for children to feel music at a young age.”

Because of that experience, Mr. Dawidow said he is motivated to vigorously participate in the orchestra’s outreach program to elementary, middle and high school pupils in north Israel that includes free concerts and master classes for talented young musicians.

The city of Vienna and conductor Leonard Bernstein played a significant role in Mr. Dawidow’s own musical education when he studied there beginning in 1981.

Immersed in the metropolis renowned as the place where musical geniuses flourished, such as Mr. Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Mr. Dawidow said he was inspired by those figures as well as the ongoing innovations in musical composition during that time. “This was the most important time in my professional life,” he said.

However, the greatest force in his learning experience during his stay in the Austrian capital was Mr. Bernstein, the longtime artistic director of the New York Philharmonic. Mr. Bernstein was conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for part of a series of recordings of Johannes Brahms’ symphonies and concertos when he allowed Mr. Dawidow to observe the rehearsals.

“He was a very regular guy — very kind and easy to talk to,” Mr. Dawidow said of Mr. Bernstein. “He proved to the world that you didn’t have to be crazy to be a great conductor — you just needed simplicity.”

After returning to Poland from Vienna, Mr. Dawidow founded the Chopin Chamber Orchestra in Krakow to honor pianist, composer and fellow countryman Frederic Chopin.

“Young conductors feel they must do something to be great,” Mr. Dawidow said of efforts to lead his chamber orchestra. “I love to conduct a group of musicians in an intimate setting where the audience is close to the music.”

Since those early days in his career, Mr. Dawidow has conducted more than 1,000 concerts across Europe, South America, China and now the United States.

The experience with Mr. Bernstein taught Mr. Dawidow not only the importance of humility and professional generosity but also the need for experienced musicians to mentor younger ones.

During this tour, Mr. Dawidow is working with pianist Roman Rabinovich.

Born in 1985 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Mr. Rabinovich immigrated to Israel in 1994 with his parents. He won the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in 2008.

“He’s addicted to music — he loves it so much,” Mr. Dawidow said of Mr. Rabinovich. “He’s a great young man, a very warm person.”

Mr. Rabinovich will play Mr. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Haifa Symphony Orchestra in the Bronx next week.

In addition to that piece, the orchestra will perform Mr. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mr. Weber’s overture to his opera Euryanthe.

Mr. Dawidow said he chose the works because, “I love this music and I believe the audience will love hearing us perform this music.”

Where to see it:

The Haifa Symphony Orchestra performs at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Blvd., on Thursday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $75, $35, $30, $25 and $10 for children ages 12 and younger. For tickets, call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833, or visit