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‘Acoustically fantastic’: Israel Philharmonic string quartet gives a celebratory performance in La Jolla

Haran Meltzer, Sharon Gabriel, Yoni Gertner, Polina Yehudin and David Radzynski
Gala co-chairwoman Sharon Gabriel (second from left) greets Israel Philharmonic musicians Haran Meltzer (left), Yoni Gertner, Polina Yehudin and David Radzynski at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.
(CeCe Canton)

A string quartet from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra took the stage in La Jolla for the fourth in a series of galas marking the organization’s first performances in the United States since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The La Jolla gala, held Dec. 8 at the Baker-Baum Concert Hall at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center on Fay Avenue, was the inaugural San Diego gala for IPO, planned and presented by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, an organization formed to ensure the IPO reaches diverse audiences worldwide.

The string of U.S. concerts, including performances in New York, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, celebrates the 85th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic, according to Sharon Gabriel, co-chairwoman of the La Jolla gala and a longtime local resident.

“We’re very excited to be performing at The Conrad,” she said. “It’s the most sensational venue. … It’s acoustically fantastic.”

Violinist David Radzynski, violinist Polina Yehudin, viola player Yoni Gertner, and cellist Haran Meltzer (from left)
Violinist David Radzynski, violinist Polina Yehudin, viola player Yoni Gertner and cellist Haran Meltzer (from left) play Dec. 8 in La Jolla.
(CeCe Canton)

The string quartet is composed of IPO concertmaster and violinist David Radzynski, violinist Polina Yehudin, viola player Yoni Gertner and IPO principal cellist Haran Meltzer.

The program, which began with the anthems of the United States and Israel and concluded with two encore pieces, contained music by Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Ravel and Haydn, played with both bows and fingers during several movements.

David Radzynski says the Baker-Baum Concert Hall is “one of the most beautiful halls we have played."
David Radzynski says the Baker-Baum Concert Hall is “one of the most beautiful halls we have played.”
(CeCe Canton)

Radzynski said the Baker-Baum Concert Hall is “one of the most beautiful halls we have played.”

“We’re happy to be here,” he said.

The gala portion of the evening included a pre-concert cocktail party and a post-performance reception, at which the musicians greeted and conversed with about 50 concert guests.

Gertner, who had never played in San Diego before, said the acoustics in Baker-Baum “are wonderful.”

Though rehearsing in the empty hall was “good, with people in it, it’s so much better. It’s really comfortable; it’s just perfect,” he added.

Meltzer said “we thought to do a serious string quartet [program] but then [thought] for these events, it’s better to have lots of different styles and different composers.”

He said the program is the same for each stop on the tour, with variations only in the encores.

Danielle Ames Spivak, chief executive and executive vice president of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, said the La Jolla performance “is a really important part of our tour.” She noted that the full orchestra has played in the area at smaller events and private homes, but “never at a venue like this.”

Money raised by the gala events fund IPO’s music education programs, Ames Spivak said, which include teaching more than 30,000 students of all backgrounds and religions in Israel.

Danielle Ames Spivak (left) and Sharon Gabriel attend the Dec. 8 reception for the Israel Philharmonic string quartet.
(CeCe Canton )

Following that tradition, the string quartet played special performances in a few of the tour cities for underprivileged or homeless audiences. “They love to perform … these outreach programs,” Gabriel said.

AFIPO board President James Ackerman said the orchestra makes connections with people all over the world as the “greatest cultural ambassador of Israel.”

IPO is usually dark in Israel in November and December, typically touring the United States during that time, Gabriel said. Playing in this country is the orchestra’s major fundraiser.

Gabriel said the full 105-person orchestra will return to the U.S. for its typical tour once the pandemic has ebbed.

Beyond fundraising, Ames Spivak said she is “thrilled” about this tour, as “people are so craving being together, feeling a sense of community [and] experiencing live music, which they missed for so long.”

“Music has this ability, in moments that are really difficult, to be the icebreaker in the room,” she added.

Ames Spivak said the six performances help connect concert-goers “to their Jewish identity and their supportive culture.”