Israel’s violin genius Ivry Gitlis dies at 98

Israeli virtuoso violinist Ivry Gitlis has died in Paris aged 98, his family tells AFP.

As one of the modern greats of classical music, he not only performed with the best orchestras in the world but never stopped experimenting, seeking new fans far beyond the elite.

Gitlis was as comfortable playing with the Rolling Stones or jazzman Stephane Grapelli, with African storytellers or gypsies, as he was with classical repertoire.

Israeli violinist Ivry Gitlis performs during a rehearsal with Una Stella Baroque musical ensemble in Marseille, southern France, August 9, 2011. (Photo by BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP)

Hugely charismatic, he took “the time to meet people, to seduce them, to learn to like them,” Le Parisien newspaper writes of the musician, who lived in the French capital.

With disheveled white hair and piercing blue eyes, the maestro had a reputation for being whimsical, wild and narcissistic, playing eyes closed, often improvising rather than using sheet music.

The first Israeli artist to perform in the Soviet Union in 1955, Gitlis was also a staunch advocate of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s cultural organization UNESCO.


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