An historic project

Dedication and detective work are getting an organized, digitized IPO Archives online

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Avivit Hochstadter picked up another unmarked photo from among the countless boxes and cabinets that long served as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s Archives.

Once again the IPO Archives Manager’s monumental digitization project had ground to a halt. She showed the image to Archives Researcher Gabriel Volé, an orchestra bassist from 1967 to 2013 who, in addition to occasionally filling in on stage, helps Hochstadter two days a week.

Something caught his eye. They converted it to a high-resolution scan and, using his computer zoom as the detective’s magnifying glass, he confirmed his suspicions.

 

THE WIDER FOCUS

“Our main priority now is to digitize and identify all the still photos that comprise the Murray S. Katz Photo Archives of the IPO,” said Hochstadter in late April. “We have done it for 5,000 photos so far, but we have at least another 10,000 to do.”

Meanwhile they continue providing invaluable research assistance to the scholars, journalists, filmmakers and biographers who need access to eight decades of IPO concert programs, newspaper and magazine articles, and audio and video recordings. Among those they have helped is Josh Aronson, the producer-director of the Orchestra of Exiles documentary.

“His assistant spent hours here going through letters from musicians to Huberman and finding fascinating stories about the situation in Europe,” Hochstadter recalled. “And I just heard from someone making a documentary on Leonard Bernstein for his centennial in 2018.”

 

THINKING BEYOND THE BOXES

It was in the mid-1980s that Heinz Berger, a recently retired IPO oboist and English horn player, took it upon himself to begin organizing the materials that had been saved in boxes but never properly catalogued. Trombone players Heinrich Schiefer and Matti Grabler would soon assist him. Hochstadter, a trained singer who sang in many productions with the orchestra and continues to perform with the Israeli Vocal Ensemble, took over the management of the archives more than a dozen years ago. A few months ago, Noa Livne, whose father, Yoram Livne, was a violin player in the orchestra until 2016, joined the archives team.

“If a photo does not have all the information attached, we need to track it down,” said Volé, whose father, Dr. Leopold Volé, and maternal grandfather, Jacob Surowicz, also had careers as IPO musicians. Their three generations of membership form an uninterrupted line back to the orchestra’s founding.

Before Volé’s grandfather began his 24 years in the Israel Philharmonic, he had 27 years in the Warsaw Philharmonic. It was at his Warsaw home that Bronislaw Huberman auditioned Polish musicians for the orchestra. Huberman’s own archives are now in the Music Library of Tel Aviv, part of the Felicia Blumental Music Center.

“For me, the archives are alive,” Volé continued. “Most of the musicians who founded the orchestra continued playing until they retired in the late 1950s and early ’60s. By that time I was already a teenager and had been coming to rehearsals and concerts since early childhood. I look at a photo of a concert and, if I wasn’t in the orchestra, or watching and listening, I heard stories about it from my father.”

 

THE HEART OF THE ARCHIVES

In many cases, personal memorabilia are at the heart of an archive. Hochstadter has received some private collections, mainly photos from musicians. The latest mystery photo was a case in point.

Volé zoomed in on it: the conductor was indeed Josef Krips. He further enlarged the photo, which had been taken from the back of the orchestra, and could read a cello part.

“I recognized it as a Mozart symphony. I played it myself many, many times,” he said with pride. “I remembered it had been recorded, with Krips conducting, and so we cross-referenced it and found the exact date and all the details.”

Both Hochstadter and Volé are cautiously optimistic that before the end of 2017 they will have a significant portion of the photo archives online. Internet access will greatly expand public awareness and interest. With that may should come exciting new contributions.

“I’m open to contact with anyone who has something to share with us,” Hochstadter said. “One of the most precious things that we have is a recording of our national anthem, ‘HaTikvah,’ played at the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948. It’s very exciting: You can hear Ben Gurion‘s voice at the end.”

Volé added he believes someone in America probably took home movies of the orchestra on tour. And he is convinced that among the treasures remaining to be archived is someone’s audio recording of the original live radio broadcast of the inaugural concert in 1936.

“We’re happy to get anything that comes,” he said. Then, with a smile, he added, “But please, provide as much information about it as you can.”

 

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Top photo: Gabriel Volé, Noa Livne and Avivit Hochstadter at work in the IPO Archives; Above: Volé and Hochstadter.