Conductor Israel Yinon dies after collapsing on stage

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Yinon in 2003
Image: Etan J. Tal.

Conductor Israel Yinon died yesterday after collapsing during a performance in Switzerland. The Israeli conductor was directing an orchestra in the city of Lucerne when he suddenly collapsed and fell head first off of the platform. No official cause of death has been announced. He was 59 years old.

Yinon collapsed during the performance of German composer Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony. An audience member attended to him while others were asked to leave the Lucerne Culture and Convention Centre and musicians exited. Yinon's girlfriend was playing in the orchestra when he collapsed.

Yinon was known for showcasing the works of composers killed in the Holocaust. He highlighted symphonies from those such as Pavel Haas and Viktor Ullmann. Through this he gained international recognition including his award of the German critics’ recording prize in 1993. He went on to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Speaking about the work of those composers who became victims of the Holocaust, Yinon was quoted as saying "Without the Second World War, new music would have sounded quite different."

Despite his international success he never achieved similar critical acclaim in his home country of Israel. Speaking to the Ynet news website his cousin Yisrael Ganor said "In Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic he was very successful with this material, whereas in Israel he was rarely invited [to conduct]. Once someone famous told him — I don’t remember if it was a musician or journalist — that they would only invite him if there was no one else, or if the budgetary constraints couldn't cover someone well known."

Tributes have been paid to the conductor including one from the Jungen Philharmonie Zentralschweiz student orchestra. They said they lost "not only a highly regarded musical colleague and sensitive educator, but a big-hearted friend." Yinon had conducted them in 2009 and 2012 concerts.