A little fate-tempting and a lot of talent brought Linor Katz to the IPO
Several times during her 30 years, cellist Linor Katz has stood at a crossroads. A few years ago it was the intersection of Israel and the United States.
In 2012, after spending the previous five years earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music performance at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, the homeland was plucking hard at her heartstrings. She and her older sister Moran Katz, a Juilliard-trained clarinetist happily rooted in New York, were active founding members of Shuffle Concerts, the genre-flipping chamber group also based in New York.
“I didn’t know for sure what I wanted,” Katz said recently from her home in Tel Aviv. “But I also wasn’t expecting myself to have the answers. I think if you work hard and dare to try and fail and all that, then I believe it leads you to the right place.”
And that is what she did. After a year in New York she heard of an opening in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I think that my attitude was not to want it too badly so as not to get disappointed,” she remembered. “But I realized that I had to try. I prepared for my audition, but probably not well enough. I was the runner up, but they offered me a tour and a few months contract because they needed an extra cellist. So I came back to Israel and started really liking it. There were great people, lots of new young faces, good conductors, and amazing soloists.”
Then two other things happened to confirm this was “what I should do and where I should be.”
Her mother was diagnosed with cancer and while helping her completely regain her health she met her future husband, IPO principal oboist Dudu Carmel.
When the IPO had an opening for assistant principal cellist a year later, “I really prepared myself for the audition this time,” she said. “I worked extremely hard because I really wanted it and got the job.”
THE FIRST PART OF THE JOURNEY
Music was very present in Linor Katz’ childhood home in Herzliya, Her mother, Zoara, was a piano teacher whose first husband, and her sister Narda‘s father, was Mindru Katz, a Romanian-born concert pianist. He had died on stage in Turkey when, at age 52, he suffered a heart attack while performing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Tempest.
A few years later, her mother fell in love with Eytan Katz, a man in the automobile business with, coincidentally, the same last name. The family soon grew to include the three daughters, Narda (now a yoga teacher in Israel), Moran, and Linor. When Linor was 7 she began taking piano lessons, “mostly out of curiosity and out of wanting to do what my sister was doing.”
“My mother never thought it was a good idea to study with her,” Katz said. “But she did practice with me a lot and came to lessons with me. I knew she had expectations, but it was always with the right amount of requirement: she never forced me to do anything. Though it started in part to be doing the same as Moran, I discovered that I really enjoyed it.”
When she was 10, after a week nagging her parents to buy her trombone lessons, she switched to nagging about cello lessons.
“They didn’t take me seriously because the week before it was the trombone,” she laughed. They may also have been suspicious of what seemed the source of her interest.
“I’d seen a photograph of a beautiful blonde cellist playing,” she said. “Maybe I thought I would look like her if I played the cello.”
But there was something different this time, and her parents were very supportive of her cello study. She took to it eagerly, practicing both piano and cello every day for years, until she came to another crossroads.
“I realized I should focus on one of them,” she said, “and chose the cello. Now that I think about it I was very brave because I chose the instrument that was more difficult for me, and that I was less good at. But somehow I knew that in the end I would love the cello more.”
At 15 she spent the first of two summers at the Idyllwild music program in Southern California. It was her first time in America. Three years later, Daniel Barenboim invited her to join the West Eastern Divan Orchestra, which she remained active in until taking the permanent position with the IPO a year ago.
It was also in Southern California, while performing in San Diego with her sister and pianist Eliran Avni, that the idea of Shuffle Concerts was born.
“He told us this idea he had about a single concert where you jump from genre to genre, performing, for example, Jobim, then Mozart, then Sting and then Rachmaninov all in one concert. We told him it’s an amazing idea but why aren’t you doing anything about it? So we really made him believe in it. The three of us found three other musicians. We started really small to see how it worked, playing more and more concerts in more important venues and now it’s going very well.”
This fall, the only crossroads Katz and her husband should face on the IPO tour in the United States will be deciding which friends to visit and where to eat. Whether it’s a post-concert reception or a restaurant on a day off, we trust that their decisions will put them in exactly the right place.