By Lawrence Budmen

The Arsht Center's ongoing celebration of the 400th anniversary of the city of Tel Aviv reached its zenith on December 16 with a stellar concert by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Canadian cellist Amanda Forsyth (Mrs. Zukerman) joined the festivities for good measure.

The Israeli flagship orchestra is now a world class ensemble, propelled by high precision strings, mellow winds and bright, glowing brass. After four decades under the music direction of Zubin Mehta, this orchestra exhibits the kind of turn on a dime agility that only the very best ensembles register.

Zukerman has become a musically engaged, expressive conductor. He opened the program with an old fashioned, big orchestra version of Haydn's Symphony No.83 in G minor (in the manner of Beecham and Bernstein). No vibrato less, period instrument models for Zukerman. This was bold, large scale Haydn with both heft and charm. The graceful elegance of the string playing in the Andante, sweet timbre of the flute solo in the Minuet and wry humor of the finale were particularly notable.

After four decades on the world's concert stages, Zukerman remains a violin virtuosso to be reckoned with. His performance of Haydn's Violin Concerto in C Major was romantic in the best sense - generous of tone, brilliant in dexterity, aristocratic of line and phrase. String orchestra and harpsichord support dovetailed Zukerman's superlative display with subtle musicality.

Two beautiful, rarely heard works by Max Bruch - Canzone in B-flat Major and Adagio on Celtic Melodies - were played by Forsyth with lovely tone and fine instrumental command. Only slightly more passion was wanted. Rapport between Forsyth and Zukerman was strong, bringing supple orchestral accompaniment.

The concert concluded with a lush, high energy rendition of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet - a fine display of the orchestra's outstanding musicianship and wonderful finale to the opening performance of the Arsht Center's new Classical Masterworks series.

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