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Ivry Gitlis

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Years active
1949 to present

Sandra Hochman

Ivry Gitlis

Ivry Gitlis wwwkesheteiorgilimagessitecontimagesIGitli

Birth name
Ivry (Yitzhak-Meir) Gitlis

25 August 1922 (age 101) Haifa, Palestine Mandate, now Israel (

violinist, pedagogue, writer, actor

Sansa, It Happened In St. Tropez

The Art of Ivry Gitlis

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Ivry Gitlis (Hebrew: עברי גיטליס‎‎; born 25 August 1922 in Haifa, Israel) is an Israeli virtuoso violinist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He has performed with the world's top orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and many more.


Ivry Gitlis 8 opinions on performance and career by violinist Ivry

Ivry gitlis violin virtuoso

Early life and education

Ivry Gitlis IVRY GITLIS YouTube

Yitzhak-Meir (Isaac) Gitlis was born in Haifa, Palestine Mandate to Jewish parents, who emigrated in 1921 from Kamianets-Podilskyi, Russia, now Ukraine.

Gitlis acquired his first violin when he was five years old and started lessons under Mme Velikovsky together with his friend Zvi Zeitlin. He then studied privately with Mira Ben-Ami, a pupil of Joseph Szigeti. When he was eight, she arranged for him to play for Bronisław Huberman, which prompted a fundraising campaign to allow him to study in France.

In 1933 he arrived with his mother in Paris and started to take lessons with Marcel Chailley, husband of the pianist Céliny Chailley-Richez. Being very close to their family, he was introduced to George Enescu and Jacques Thibaud. In that period he decided to change his birth name (Isaac)) to Ivry. At 11, Gitlis (Jitlis) entered the Conservatoire de Paris in the class of Jules Boucherit, and graduated in 1935.

In 1939–1940, his teachers included George Enescu and Jacques Thibaud in Paris and Carl Flesch in Spa, Belgium and later in London.

World War 2

In 1940, during World War II, he went to London where he first worked for two years in a war factory and was then assigned to the artists branch of the British Army. He gave numerous concerts for the Allied soldiers and in war factories. After the war he made his successful debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and subsequently played with the BBC and all other principal orchestras of Great Britain.


In 1951, as suggested by his teacher Alice Pashkus, he participated in the Long-Thibaud Competition in Paris, where he took fifth place. During the preliminary stages of the competition, a rumor circulated that he had stolen a Stradivarius violin during the war, which caused a scandal on the day of the final. Six years after the fall of Hitler, being a Jew in France was still causing debate. In the same year, Gitlis made his debut in Paris, playing in a recital at the Salle Gaveau, sponsored by the music manager Marcel de Valmalète (9 July 1951).

In the 1950s, he moved to the United States where he met Jascha Heifetz. There he made several tours, managed by Sol Hurok, including those conducted by Eugene Ormandy (Tchaikovsky, in Philadelphia) and George Szell (Sibelius, on 15,16 and 18 December 1955 in New York). Back in Europe, between 1954 and 1955, he recorded for the Vox label concertos by Berg (Violin Concerto "To the memory of an angel", coupled with "Chamber Concerto" -Vox PL 8660- which was awarded with a "Grand Prix du Disque" in 1954), Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky (Violin Concerto, coupled with "Duo Concertant") and with the conductor Jascha Horenstein, Bartók, Bruch and Sibelius. His recording of Bartok's 2nd Violin Concerto and Solo Violin Sonata -Vox PL 9020- received the "Best Record of the Year" award from the New York Herald Tribune in 1955.


In 1963, he was the first Israeli violinist to play in the Soviet Union. He gave a series of concerts under the cultural exchange program of the Soviet Union and Israel, starting in Vilnius (23 October 1963). His other concerts were given in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and Odessa.

In 1968, he participated in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus film project, performing "Whole Lotta Yoko" with Yoko Ono and The Dirty Mac, recently released on DVD.

Many composers were fascinated by his sound and way of playing, among whom René Leibowitz who dedicated the "Violin Concerto Op.50" (1958) to him; Roman Haubenstock-Ramati with "Sequences" for Violin and Orchestra (1958); Bruno Maderna writing "Pièce pour Ivry" (1971), which Gitlis never recorded commercially, but recorded live in Paris on 25 May 1983; Yannis Xenakis with "Mykka(s)", which Gitlis premièred in 1972; Charles Harold Bernstein with two works for solo violin, inspired by Gitlis, "Rhapsodie Israélienne" and "Romantic Suite" (1984).


In 1972, Gitlis founded the Festival de Vence, famous for its innovative programming. He is also the inspirer and organiser of the Saint André de Cubzac, Alfortville and Bonifacio Music Festivals.

In 1975, he undertook a dramatic role, as Hypnotist in François Truffaut's film, The Story of Adele H.

He has often visited Japan where he is very popular.


In 1990, Gitlis was designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. His stated aim is the "support of education and culture of peace and tolerance".


Ivry Gitlis is a commentator (along with Itzhak Perlman) all the way through the DVD The Art of Violin (2000), which showcases violin performances and gives biographical details of many of the great violinists of the twentieth century.

In 2008, he became patron of the Paris-based association "Inspiration(s)", whose aim is to make classical music accessible to all. He is a Fellow of the Royal Northern College of Music.


At various stages in his career, Gitlis played on a 1699 Giovanni Battista Rogeri, which he sold to famed violin author Sidney Bowden, the 1737 "Chant du Cygne" Antonio Stradivari, and the 1740 "Ysaye" Guarneri del Gesù. Ivry Gitlis currently owns the 1713 "Sancy" Antonio Stradivari.


  • "... don't be so polite with the music, it's like being in love!" (IG, during a masterclass, 31 October 2011)
  • "Sheet music is a bunch of black marks; they have no significance ... I play violin, but in order to play well you have to be much more than a violin player. There is an entire world that lives together with it, like the currents in the ocean; and in any event, often I don't use sheet music at all, but improvise." (IG, October 2012)
  • "... rubato is the art of playing in tempo..." (IG)
  • (on answering the question: "what is your motto?") "... to be alive, to be aware, to hear, to know, to feel, to see, to love, to be loved a little bit sometimes." (IG, July 2011)
  • Personal life

    Since the end of the 1960s, Gitlis has resided in Paris, France.

    Audio/Video Recordings

    Sortable lists, in chronological order.


    Ivry Gitlis Wikipedia

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