December 20, 1936
Arturo Toscanini, considered to be one of the finest virtuoso conductors of the 20th century, was conducting the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in 1935 when he was approached by Bronislaw Huberman and asked to conduct the opening performance of the Palestine Philharmonic. Huberman, a violinist, had been recruiting Jewish musicians to form the Palestine Philharmonic from among those who had been dismissed from their positions in Germany after the Nazi rise to power. Toscanini’s agreement to conduct the opening session helped attract even more musicians to the new enterprise.
Toscanini was a noted opponent of Fascism and the Nazi Party. In 1933, he had refused to participate in a festival in Bayreuth as a protest against the Nazi regime and had been honored by Jewish community leaders in New York and by the Jewish National Fund for his public stance. He refused to take payment or reimbursement for his travel saying, “I had to show my solidarity. It is everyone’s duty to help in this cause according to one’s means.”
Toscanini arrived at the Lod airport at approximately noon on December 20th, where he was received by Huberman and Chaim Weizmann among other dignitaries. After arriving, he was taken immediately to the concert hall to rehearse with the orchestra. Toscanini would conduct the orchestra in its first concert on December 26, 1936 to a sold out crowd of 3,000.
In addition to his time with the Orchestra, the renowned conductor also spent time touring the country and meeting with Jewish refugees and immigrants from Europe and he even participated in a tree planting ceremony. He would return to Palestine in 1938 during the height of the Arab riots and again conduct a series of concerts with the Palestine Philharmonic.
The photo shows Arturo Toscanini, left, and Bronislaw Huberman on stage after the first Palestine Symphony concert in 1936, as seen in “Orchestra of the Exiles,” a film by Josh Aronson. (Source: Felicja Music Center Library/Huberman Archive)
Photo Credit: Arturo Toscanini, left, and Bronislaw Huberman on stage after the first Palestine Symphony concert in 1936, as seen in “Orchestra of the Exiles,” a film by Josh Aronson. (Source: Felicja Music Center Library/Huberman Archive)