The photo is a large press photo of the horn section of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on their first US tour in 1951. The horn players from left to right, with their respective instruments:
- Wolf Sprecher - Czech (F/Bb Lidl)
- Zvi Wegman - American/German (F/Bb Kruspe/Conn)
- Georges Durand (principal) - French (F/Bb ascending Selmer)
- Wolfgang Levy - German (F/Bb Alexander)
- Horst Salomon - British/German (Single Bb/A Paxman/Alexander)
This is not to say that these players necessarily came from these national traditions, but they play a mixture of horns that would be extremely unusual today. Each horn has a distinctive timbre that must have made an unusual collective horn sound. Some horns like the Selmer piston valve and Czech Lidl are almost never used anymore, and the single Bb is used mainly for solo and chamber music.
But what made this really special were three additional pages from the same program that showed photographs and names of every musician. They might even be their passport photos too.
The orchestra arrived in New York at the end of December 1950 and traveled for 3 months of concerts. This was their first tour of North America and they went from one coast to another and back, playing under Serge Koussevitzky (who would die in June 1951), and his protegee, Leonard Bernstein. The program included Prokofiev's 5th Sym. and Tchaikovsky's 4th Sym. At one point there was a personnel crisis when several musicians came down with flu, but the concerts managed to continue. This photo was printed in a Denver newspaper.
According to news sources, Wolfgang Levy, and Horst Salomon immigrated to Palestine from Germany in 1936 and become members of the Palestine Orchestra, precursor to the IPO. Georges Durand, the principal horn, was French and according to the flight manifest only 25 years old at the time of the tour.
Put this orchestra tour into the context of the time and it becomes an extraordinary set of concerts. 1951 was only two years after Israel had achieved statehood following the first Arab-Israeli war. It was only 6 years after the horrors of WWII had ended, but the world was still coming to terms with the enormity of the Holocaust. The Korean War was rapidly escalating and the mission of the new United Nations was being threatened by Cold War politics for the first time. These musicians of the Israel Philharmonic were ambassadors in every sense of the word. Perhaps they were a mixed-up horn section but they were introducing the world to a unique musical diplomacy.