On March 30, 1936, the voice of the postmaster general Colonel Hudson burst into the ether, announcing for the first time “This is Jerusalem Calling”, followed by a Hebrew translation and a speech by the High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, who officially inaugurated the Palestine Broadcasting Service. Music was part of public broadcasted content from its very inception, even more so in the years of the British Mandate, since the admitted policy was not to involve any political content whatsoever. The first musical sounds that were heard on that occasion were those of the piano of Erich (Aryeh) Sachs, who played an introduction to a song sung by Chaim Vittorio Weinberg.
For the first two years, the musical needs of the young radio station were supplied by the small Chamber Ensemble of the Palestine Broadcasting Service, which was directed by the singer-conductor Karel Salomon. And only in 1938, after a project cancellation freed up a modest sum of 50 Palestinian Pounds in PBS's budget, Karel Solomon convinced his superiors that he could use the funds to build a new orchestra - and that's how the Palestine Broadcasting Service Orchestra was born.
The orchestra in its early years. Photo taken at the Palestine Broadcasting Service studio in Jerusalem, July 1947, after a performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto with young Menachem Pressler. The orchestra's founder, Karel Salomon, standing second right from microphone.
In 1948, the orchestra became an integral part of the Israeli Broadcasting Association (IBA) under the name "Kol Israel Orchestra". In 1970s, the orchestra's Music Director Lukas Foss said that "Kol Israel" was not a suitable name for international touring - and the name was changed to "Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra". Over the decades, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO) has played a crucial role in shaping and developing the cultural sphere of the State of Israel. The JSO has hosted major musicians from Israel and around the world, including: Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pablo Casals, Isaac Stern, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Yefim Bronfman. The orchestra tours extensively, performing on the world’s most prestigious stages, including Carnegie Hall, Vienna Music Hall, Cologne Philharmonic Hall, as well as other venues throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.
In 2017, the government disbanded the IBA and launched the new Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, which excluded all orchestral activities. Now an independent non-profit, the JSO articulated an inspiring vision, crafted a new plan, and launched the new JSO Foundation with an international fundraising campaign to support its new initiatives.
Established in 2020, the JSO Foundation has not only raised funds internationally - under the auspices of the Foundation the JSO organized events worldwide, presented the "Sound of Jerusalem" exhibition in Germany, forged international partnerships, and launched educational initiatives.
Currently, the Foundation's main focus is the JSO100 campaign, raising the funds in support of the JSO100 Vision.
1964: Igor Stravinsky works with the JSO.
Please visit our "Sound of Jerusalem" page to read personal stories of the former and present members of the JSO.