|This box contains three items
about Gary Bertini, all credited as to their source. Though there
is some duplicate information, each has unique material, and I felt
they should be kept intact rather than merged together. The photo
of the DVD was added for this website presentation. BD
Gary Bertini, conductor: born Brichevo, Romania 1 May 1927; founder and music director, Rinat (Israeli Chamber) Choir 1955-72; founder and Chief Conductor, Chamber Orchestra of Israel 1965-75; Principal Guest Conductor, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra 1971-81; Musical Director, Symphony Orchestra of Jerusalem 1978-86; Musical Adviser, Detroit Symphony Orchestra 1981-83; Chief Conductor, Radio Cologne Symphony Orchestra 1983-91; General Music Director, Frankfurt Opera 1987-90; Artistic Director, New Israeli Opera 1994-2005; Musical Director, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra 1997-2005; married Rose Berengolc (two daughters); died Tel Hashomer, Israel 17 March 2005.
More than any other musician, the conductor Gary Bertini brought Israeli music-making to a standard that could readily bear international comparison.
The founder-fathers of Israeli music were composers like Paul Ben-Haim and Stefan Wolpe, refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Bertini built on those foundations, establishing a performance tradition in choral, orchestral and operatic work that will long outlive him. Of course, he was internationally respected, too; in fact, he was in Paris, where he was a frequent guest conductor, when he was hospitalised several weeks ago; three weeks ago, he was transferred to a medical centre just outside Tel Aviv, allowing him to die in the country whose musical life he had done so much to enrich.
Bertini was born in 1927 in Brichevo, in Bessarabia, then part of Romania; his mother was a biologist and doctor and his father was K.A. Bertini, the poet and translator. Taken to Palestine as a boy, Gary Bertini began violin lessons when he was 16.
He attended the Milan Conservatoire in 1948, continuing his studies at the Tel Aviv College of Music with Mordecai Seter and George Singer, graduating in 1951. Thereupon he turned to Europe, studying conducting and composition in Paris, at the Ecole Normale de Musique and the Conservatoire. At the Sorbonne, Jacques Chailley was the leading French musicologist; Bertini studied with him.
Bertini returned to Israel in 1954, and his career took off immediately - not least because of his own decisive action: he founded the Rinat Choir (later the Israeli Chamber Choir) in 1955, remaining its music director until 1972 and introducing Israeli audiences to first-rate choral singing for the first time, the repertoire ranging from early music to contemporary composers. In 1965 he likewise established the Israeli Chamber Ensemble, bringing it to world standard in his 10 years there.
He was soon attracting interest further afield. He spent a decade, from 1971, as principal guest conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, where he also worked with Scottish Opera. Thereafter he spent two years as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra before moving on to the Radio Symphony Orchestra in Cologne for eight years as principal conductor, until 1991, his last four years there spent concurrently as Intendant and Generalmusikdirektor of the opera house in Frankfurt am Main. Rome Opera summoned him as music director in 1997, and this season (2004-05) saw him begin as musical director at the San Carlo Opera in Naples. It was also the last of his seven years as musical director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
Meanwhile, he had become one of the most influential figures in Israeli music, as music director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for nine years, from 1978, artistic adviser of the Israel Festival from 1976 to 1983, and artistic director of the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv from 1994, a post he still held at his death.
Bertini was a frequent guest conductor elsewhere, appearing regularly with the Berlin and Israel philharmonic orchestras, among others. He was often seen in the opera pit at the Bastille Opera in Paris, the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and La Scala in Milan.
Bertini was awarded the Israel Prize in 1987, in honour of his work for music in his adoptive land. Italy's music critics endowed the Abiati Prize on him twice: Best Conductor in 1995 and Best Operatic Conductor three years later. Their French colleagues agreed, pinning a Grand Prix on his recordings of Britten's opera Billy Budd and Prokofiev's War and Peace (Warner).
Bertini was proud of the breadth of his repertoire, which stretched from his contemporaries - Luigi Dallapiccola, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti, Darius Milhaud, Mordecai Seter and Josef Tal among them - back to Josquin, whose life straddled the 15th and 16th centuries. He had a generous number of first performances to his credit, including recordings of some 20 Israeli premieres. He was particularly good at the simultaneous articulation of detail and structure in large-scale works. His account of the Berlioz Requiem and his cycle of the complete Mahler Symphonies drew high praise from the critics.
But then Bertini was not only a conductor: he had that extra insight that came from being a composer himself, with orchestral works (including a ballet and a horn concerto), incidental music for some 40 plays, chamber works and songs to his credit. He was particularly active as a composer in the period after his studies, although he received the Israel State Prize for composition as late as 1978.
To his orchestras Bertini, though technically invigorating, could sometimes appear rather aloof. His agent, Thomas Jung, conceded, "He could be severe - but with himself as well. He was a grand seigneur, a wonderful man, of wide learning and interests; he spoke eight languages. He was a warm-hearted personality, always open to the new, always youthful and modern in spirit."
Bertini's last appearances came in January, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and with the Russian National Orchestra in Moscow - triumphantly received.
-- Martin Anderson, The Independent, March 23, 2005
Gary Bertini; Israeli conductor in demand for opera; 77
By Anne Midgette
NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE
April 5, 2005
Gary Bertini, a conductor and composer who played a significant role in shaping the musical life of Israel, died March 17 in Tel Hashomer, Israel. He was 77.
The cause was complications from lymphatic cancer, his Swiss managers, Konzertgesellschaft Basel, told European newspapers.
A former music director of the Israel Chamber Ensemble and the Jerusalem Symphony, Mr. Bertini was also active internationally, holding posts with the Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Opera, the Frankfurt Opera, the Detroit Symphony, the Rome Opera and others. At his death he was the music director of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Italy, and artistic director of the New Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Born May 1, 1927, in Brichevo, Bessarabia (in the present-day Republic of Moldova), Mr. Bertini emigrated to Palestine with his family as a child and pursued musical studies there, in Milan and in Paris, where he worked with Nadia Boulanger and Arthur Honegger. Returning to Israel, he founded his own choir and chamber group. He did not make his international debut until he was nearly 40, conducting at Yehudi Menuhin's festival in Bath, England.
After initially refusing to work in postwar Germany, he eventually accepted Rolf Liebermann's invitation to conduct at the Hamburg Opera.
Mr. Bertini ultimately conducted most of the major ensembles in the world, from the Berlin Philharmonic to La Scala in Milan, Italy. His wide-ranging repertory extended from the Renaissance – Josquin – to the contemporary – Ligeti – with plenty of stops along the way, including acclaimed recordings of Mahler, Berlioz and Brahms. A DVD of Prokofiev's "War and Peace," which he conducted at the Opera National de Paris in 2000, was recently released. [Photo at right]
His final conducting appearances, in January, constituted another debut: his first performances in Russia.
Gary Bertini has roots in Russia where he was born, in Israel where he grew up and received his education, in Milan where he resided as a young man and furthered his musical studies and in Paris where he deepened his studies of conducting, musicology and composition with Arthur Honegger and Olivier Messiaen.
Today, he is a frequent guest of Berliner Philharmonic and of Israel Philharmonic orchestras as well as in the Opera Houses of New York, Philadelphia, London, Vienna, Munich, Rome, Milan, Tokyo and Paris.
Gary Bertini captured for the first time international attention when he performed at the head of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble he founded in 1965 and conducted worldwide until 1975.
He has subsequently been chief conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 1978 to 1986, music advisor to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1981 to 1983 and principal conductor of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra for eight years (1983 – 1991). Meanwhile he also was appointed general music director of the Frankfurt Opera House (1987 – 1990). From 1987 tol 1997 Bertini has been both musical and artistic director of New Israeli Opera in Tel-Aviv. In 1998 he has also been named musical director of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.
In the course of this long-lasting musical career, Gary Bertini has conducted many world premieres of important contemporary authors. He has recorded Berlioz's Requiem and the whole cycle of Mahler symphonies for CBS, RCA, Harmonia Mundi and Orfeo, and for some time has enjoyed a close working relationship with EMI. On September 17th, 2001, a few days after the "twin towers" attack, he conducted in the Gedächtniskirche Berlin Mozart's Requiem in the memory of the victims with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester; this concert, recorded by the German national radio, was broadcast all over Europe.
Among his several appearances in Italy, we should mention his four performances at Milan´s Scala where he conducted Doktor Faustus by Manzoni in 1989, Manon by Massenet in 1999; Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila in February 2002 with Plácido Domingo as protagonist, then more recently, Tosca.
He was twice (1995 and 1996) the recipient of the "Abbiati" prize as "best conductor of the year". He was recently awarded the title of "Accademico Onorario di Santa Cecilia". Since the present season, 2004/2005, he is musical director of Teatro di San Carlo.
-- Biography from the Mariinsky Theater
© 1990 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded at his apartment in Chicago on September 12, 1990. Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following week, and again in 1992 and 1997. This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time. My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.