Gary Bertini

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Gary Bertini (May 1, 1927, Brichevo, Moldavia) was an Israeli conductor and composer of Russian birth. Taken to Palestine (Eretz Israel) as a child, he began violin lessons at the age of six. He later studied at the Milan Conservatory (1946-7), in Israel with Mordecai Seter, and at the Paris Conservatoire (1951-4) while taking further studies with Nadia Boulanger, Chailley, Honegger and Messiaen. In 1954 he returned to Israel and taught conducting at the Music Teachers’ College, Tel-Aviv, and later at the Rubin Academy of Tel-Aviv University, where he was appointed a professor in 1975. In 1955 he formed the Rinat Choir, which quickly acquired a wide reputation and became the Israel Chamber Choir. Bertini’s orchestral debut was also in 1955 with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he first toured the USA and East Asia in 1960. His British debut was in 1965 with the English Chamber Orchestra at the Bath Festival, and he became a frequent visitor to Britain, conducting many BBC concerts and, from 1970, forming a close association with the Scottish National Orchestra (of which he was principal conductor, 1971-8) and Scottish Opera. He made his Paris Opera debut in 1975 with Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-bleue, and his Berlin debut the next year with Die Entfuhrung. In Israel Bertini has given the premieres of many works, notably those of Partos and Seter. In 1965 he formed the Israel Chamber Ensemble (today the Israel Chamber Orchestra), comprising an opera group as well as an orchestra, with which he has toured in Europe and the USA. He conducted the premieres of Tal’s Ashmedai at the Hamburg Staatsoper in 1971, and his Massada 967 at the 1973 Jerusalem Festival. A dynamic and versatile conductor in a wide repertory, Bertini is also a skilled lecturer and has given frequent illustrated concerts for young audiences. His enthusiastic support of Israeli music is reflected in recordings of over 20 orchestral works by Israeli composers. In 1964 he became music adviser to the Batsheva Dance Company, and he has composed incidental music for some 40 plays produced by Habima (Israel National Theatre) and the Cameri Theatre. His other compositions include a Concerto for horn, strings and timpani (1952), a ballet \"Delet aluma\" (Unfound door, 1962), a violin sonata, songs and choral arrangements. In 1976 Bertini became musical director of the Israel Festival. The following year he conducted the premiere of Tal’s opera Die Versuchung at the Munich Festival and became musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1986. During this time he created the annual Liturgica Festival, which features sacred music from all periods. In 1981-3 he served as music adviser to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and from 1983 to 1991 he was chief conductor of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra. From 1987 until his resignation in 1990 he was music director and Intendant of the Frankfurt Opera. At Frankfurt he conducted the premiere of Cage’s Europeras 1 & 2 in 1987. From 1994 to 1997 he was artistic director of the New Israel Opera, introducing several operas which had never been performed before in the country and conducting the premiere of Tal’s Josef in 1995. Bertini was appointed music director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra in 1998. In May 1998 he gave the world premiere of Philippe Fenelon’s Salammbo at the Opera Bastille in Paris, where he became a regular guest conductor in 1995. Besides his recordings of music by Israeli composers, his extensive discography includes the first commercial recordings of Weill’s first and second symphonies and Mahler’s completion of Weber’s Die drei Pintos, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Requiem fur einen jungen Dichter and a cycle of Mahler symphonies. Bertini is the recipient of several prizes and honorary titles, among them the prestigious Israel Prize (1978). Gary Bertini died in Tel Aviv on March 17, 2005.