The Top Ten

The Most Influential People in Israeli Classical Music

1. Zubin Mehta, 77, the Musical Director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

2. Miriam Feirberg, 62, mayor of Netanya

Few mayors in Israel take an interest in and support musical culture. Outstanding among them is the mayor of Netanya, Miriam Feirberg. She promoted the city's conservatory, adopted the Kibbutz Orchestra (now known as the Israel Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra), and in the past year the city she heads saw the development of Tremolo the Israeli Percussion Center. Musical culture is flourishing in a city that does not have an established wealthy population. Feirberg's endeavors in this field are a model of long-term thinking, an investment in the truly important things, and should act as an inspiration for her mayoral colleagues.

3. Gil Shohat, 39, pianist, composer, conductor

Gil Shohat is no longer a lone individual, but an enterprise. He gives dozens of lectures a year, conducts explanatory concerts, is the adviser and musical director to numberless institutions, appears on television, works with jazz and pop musicians, and starting this year with a new ad hoc orchestra in Herzliya Park. For tens of thousands of people, Gil Shohat is synonymous with classical music. The masses admire him, but he still has to earn the legitimacy of the big orchestras.

4. Frederic Chaslin, conductor

Even institutions with a magnificent history can collapse and disappear in an instant, and the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra was perched on the edge of that abyss for a full decade. This year, the orchestra's new musical director, the French conductor Frederic Chaslin, who is of Jewish origin, completed his first season. He fomented a revolution in the sound of the orchestra, in its working atmosphere and in its repertoire and saved it, at least artistically. Will he be able to attract Jerusalem's music lovers in order to save it economically, too?

5. Lee Perlman, 53, executive director, America-Israel Cultural Foundation

Hope blazed across the skies of classical music in Israel this year with the appointment of a new executive director for the America-Israel Cultural Foundation: Lee Perlman, who has rich experience in the management of culture and a passion to impart it to others. The foundation, which has created an entire musical culture over 70 years, is of vast importance in supporting individuals and institutions and as a model for teaching and the preservation and revitalization of music. Perlman took over from Orit Naor, who stabilized the foundation following a crisis, and the sounds of his plans, his activity and his dreams are already resonating.

6. Maya Shavit, 77, choral conductor

Maya Shavit retired this year, but this does not mark the end of decades of conducting choirs, training generations of musicians in her Efroni Choir and commissioning works from composers. Nor has her influenced faded. Many missions in the choral field await her: fundraising, changing the consciousness of officials and politicians, establishing boys' choirs, going back to teaching. Shavit is forever a pioneer, and her vocal aesthetic and musical, social-oriented thought continue to make waves. 

7. Haim Perlock, 59, chairman of the National Council for Culture and the Arts

Unknown in the music world, he is famous in business and politics. Dr. Haim Perlock is a physician who owns a huge private medical corporation. Close to Culture Minister Limor Livnat and at the center of power circles, Perlock was appointed chairman of the National Council for Culture and the Arts, and heads the music department in the Culture Ministry. He doesn't have a musical background, but he wields great clout in navigating funds and deciding on grants, prizes and the criteria for them. Will he upset the balance this year and divert funds from the musical mainstream, which is fighting for its life, to the fringes?

8. Dr. Yael Shai, 57, chief inspector of music education in the Ministry of
Education

Yael Shai is an industrious field worker. Her achievements include a community model for budgeting and music education, the national youth orchestra, and curricula based on different tracks. But in the meantime, the conservatories are collapsing, music studies in primary school have disappeared (and teachers' jobs with them), there is no music inspection in kindergartens and the junior highs are a musical wasteland. Will the establishment, under her leadership, succeed in restoring music education to its rightful place before total musical ignorance descends on the country?

9. Arie Yass, 67, Director, Voice of Music

For a decade, the powers that be at the Israel Broadcasting Authority have been trying to shut down the Voice of Music, the classical music radio station. They just don't understand the point of a station they find esoteric and off-the-wall. Bruckner? Ravel? Yinam Leef? Hana Ajiashvili? Weird names, and only weird people listen to their works. The usual methods slashing budgets, eliminating jobs were adopted in the past year, and to complete the mission, Arie Yass was appointed the station's director. The responsibility is his now: whether to save the Voice of Music, which is an essential cultural institution, or lead it to its end.

10. The city of Berlin

Some jokes are sad. For example: Why are outstanding young Israeli musicians so gorgeous? Because they are designated for export. A whole Israeli symphony orchestra operates in Berlin; Israeli musicians fill all the available jobs. This is our musical blow. How ironic. All the forces that have been mentioned above conductors and directors, officials and teachers, culture supporters and politicians are working for the sake of one goal: to ensure that the musician they are cultivating will arrive there as an outstanding professional, a brilliant virtuoso in Berlin. Godspeed!

Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg-Ikar, who police say will be questioned under warning that she may face criminal charges.
Olivier Fitoussi