The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv (= IPO) is the leading symphony orchestra in Israel. Originally known as the Palestine Orchestra, the IPO was founded by violinist Bronisław Huberman in 1936, at a time when many Jewish musicians were being fired from European orchestras. Its inaugural concert took place in Tel Aviv on December 26, 1936, and was conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
The IPO enjoys frequent international tours, including a tour of Germany in 1971, and has hosted some of the world's greatest conductors. Particularly associated with the orchestra are conductors Leonard Bernstein and Zubin Mehta. Leonard Bernstein maintained close ties with the orchestra from 1947, and in 1988, the IPO bestowed on him the title of Laureate Conductor, which he retained until his death in 1990. Zubin Mehta has served as the IPO's Music Advisor since 1968. The IPO did not have a formal music director, but instead "music advisors", until 1977, when Zubin Mehta was appointed the IPO's first Music Director. In 1981, his title was elevated to Music Director for Life. Kurt Masur is the IPO's Honorary Guest Conductor, a title granted to him in 1992. Yoel Levi serves as Principal Guest Conductor.
With Zubin Mehta, the IPO has made a number of recordings for Decca. Under the baton of Leonard Bernstein, the IPO also recorded his works and those of Igor Stravinsky. The IPO has also collaborated with Japanese composer Yoko Kanno in the soundtrack of the anime Macross Plus.
As of 2006, the composers whose works have been most frequently performed by the IPO were L.v. Beethoven, W.A. Mozart, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn and Dvořák. The initial concerts of the Palestine Orchestra in December 1936, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, featured the music of Richard Wagner. However, after the Kristallnacht pogroms in November 1938, the orchestra has maintained a de facto ban on Wagner's work, due to that composer's antisemitism and the association of his music with Nazi Germany.
The IPO plays in subscription series (subscriber base numbering 26,000), including a special annotated Youth Concert Series, special concerts, concerts as part of the "Arts for the People" project throughout Israel, and special concerts for IDF soldiers at their outposts. The IPO annually tours the world's cultural centers and its prestigious festivals. Israel's creative artists are promoted by many IPO premieres of works by Israeli composers. The IPO also contributes to the absorption of new immigrants and includes in its ranks many new immigrant musicians. The orchestra has hosted most of the world's greatest conductors and soloists, and it also does much to develop Israeli artists and young talents from Israel and abroad.
The Secretary-General of the orchestra is Avi Shoshani.