A few more words etc



Roger Kaza, Principal Horn, St. Louis Symphony

…Perhaps you heard that Josh Bell dedicated an encore to Jacques’ memory on our opening concert (September 2015), the Rachmaninoff Vocalise. ..Maybe what you didn’t hear was the audience’s reaction when he announced the dedication. There was collective gasp from those who had not heard the news, because even though Jacques left here over 25 years ago, he is still very much remembered….

…Jacques was such an incredible musical spirit, with uncanny intuitions. I would like to relay a story to you that conveys this, one that still astonishes me to this day….It was in 1984, my very first year in the SLSO. We were doing a Mozart festival at Wash U, and I was lucky to be soloing in Mozart’s first horn concerto, in D major. During the rehearsal, when we got to the Rondo movement, Jacques suddenly asked me a provocative and puzzling question. “Roger, who wrote this music?”…I had no idea what he meant by this…and remained baffled for years. Mozart, of course—it says so right on the score! But what I discovered much later is that Mozart in fact did not compose the final version of the movement…..I can’t think of too many musicians who would have been able to sense something that subtle. It still amazes me.

….And then being together in Chautauqua after so many years apart…..I’ve played the Brahms horn trio with many violinists, but never with such easy, natural musical accord as with Jacques…….I could go on and on…but all of it would boil down to an essence of pure gratitude for Jacques’ presence among us………


His very complete artistry as a musician made him a very special Concertmaster. Everything was possible. He would read me before the first down-beat, challenge me in a wonderful way, being extremely flexible and willing - but most importantly he would take my input and - with joy - take it to another level. We shared a musical understanding, and this flowed into our friendship of deep trust and feeling. In a week where he was the powerful soloist in Bartok's 2nd Violin Concerto we sat one evening and most of the night unpacking many of his small wooden boxes with Japanese sake cups, marvelling at the tiniest variations in colours, shapes and textures. In his company time ceased, and together we just were.….His enthusiasm and curiosity - in music, ceramics, food, art, earrings, human relations .... will always be inspiring…

Thomas Dausgaardconductor

Jennifer Cappelliformer student, violin teacher

 ….the footprint that he has had on my life is immeasurable, finely intertwined with every time that I have a violin in my hands, or am teaching a lesson. So much of what he taught me, so many years ago, is fundamental to my approach to the violin, to music, and to my students. How appreciative I am that he came to Chicago [recently] and so generously worked with my students. His impact on their growth continues with their study, and the time that he spent with them and with me is so meaningful.

If your body cannot defeat cancer, your art has done so -- the many concerts you have played and recordings you have made and the Mozart still to come, will inspire and delight both your unseen and unknown listeners and your old friends, who await these recordings with a smile and a tear.....Your warmth and love radiates throughout your home. If Canada had a medal for that, you would deserve it as richly as the one you received for contributions to art.

Phillip Moll, collaborative pianist

Wendy RoseAssociate Principal Second Violin, TSO

I have wonderful memories of beautiful solos, brilliant insights, great evenings of chamber music, warm friendship and support, and above all, a deep and abiding sense of justice.

Jacques was not only an incredibly gifted musician but one of the most supportive and kind individuals I have ever met. He was truly dedicated to the arts on every level. His investment in his collection of art was a personal connection to the maker. He has had such a profound impact on so many lives. I know he will leave a large hole in the music and ceramic community. …..

Eden Benderartist

It is easy, I think, when given a kind of sentence, as Jacques was, to retreat into yourself and withdraw from life - to wither. However, he was not built that way. He did the opposite. What a lesson Jacques gave to us all, to live life to the full to the very end, and to take in all the love sent your way and reflect it out to the world. He ….became transcendent….

Lydia Adamsdirector/conductor of the Amadeus Choir

Just a bit of news:  We unloaded the best firing of our big kiln on the hill today.  Everyone was excited, even Ron Meyers who got some beautiful pieces out.  Tony Clennell and Norm Wheeler were there for the firing but not the unloading.

… … Since I know that Jacques would have liked to see this unload, I decided to play the Suite Hebraique cd while I worked.  Such beautiful and moving music.  Jacques gave the world massive quantities of beauty.  ….

Marv Bjurlinpotter

My father had an unlimited admiration for Jacques.. When my cousin was a teenager and I was a child, my father invited him to play in the homes of uncles and aunts on Sundays… and he was so proud….

Patrick Faigenbaumcousin, photographer

I will never forget the beautiful music you gave to the world and those unique interpretations you taught me. I will never forget those two summers working with you at Chautauqua and those days I sightread duets with you. I will never forget when you came over to Bowling Green for a masterclass and tried out my Asian cooking. I will never forget how much you influenced me as a musician and as a person. you have been a devoted mentor and a  beautiful musician.

Kaiwei Chenformer student, violinist, Civic Orchestra of Chicago; doctoral student writing her dissertation about Jacques

[This] is among my favourite boxes -I think my favourite- employing clay pieces in an important part—a large, ugly menacing coiled pot in an elegant wood box with plexi wings… I feel that the menacing pot and the beautiful crystal wings somehow get at my feelings about Jacques’ too early death.

Tony created this piece, titled “Terre en Transit”, 1996, which he donated to the Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo in 2017 in honour of Jacques.

Tony Urquhart, artist

Tony Urquhart - Terre en Transit colour image.jpg

………. Thank you for being brutally honest, for being the first, and possibly only person, to tell me that my playing was 'cool as a cucumber'. For making me squirm when you stopped me halfway through a piece and asked what the written dynamic was, and then asking again if that was what I played. For teaching me that when the left hand has mastered the rules and techniques, it's time to break them. They say that the best people in your life are those who get you out of your comfort zone. I would say it was more of a shove from you with Bartok Rhapsody No.1. And I can't begin to express how incredibly fortunate I feel to have someone who cared enough to do so. Your teachings and love for the art will always be reflected in my playing. To the best violin mentor anyone can ever ask for….

Samana Fanformer student, psychologist and violinist

After completing the recordings we scrapped the entire thing because the engineers had a hard time capturing the sound of his instrument, so we planned to meet the next week and record it again in a more natural acoustic. The second time through Jacques demonstrated an incredible feat of endurance by recording the entire 42 studies - at least 3 takes each - for 12 hours over ONE DAY. Even though we had everything booked for another day, he said he felt fine - well warmed up - and on we went in good spirits until midnight. Amazing.

Jacques, I'll never forget the lessons you taught me, as much about music as about life.

David Wilsonformer student, music teacher, publisheron working with Jacques on the Kreutzer etudes project:

Allie Fujito, former student, violinist, Pittsburgh Symphony

in a letter to Michael Israelievitch: “May it… bring you comfort to know that a part of him lives on, not only through you and your siblings, but also through all his former students (40 years' worth! at least) who carry a tiny bit of his heart with them whenever they practice, perform, or teach.”

…Jacques….was just 22 when I first went to him [as a student].  I was 12, and had been sent to him by my first teacher, Jane Hazelrigg.  He lived in a basement apartment near the Bloomington campus and had a little string of bells that the students rang at the door to be let in.  After lessons on Saturdays, we students stayed and he played operas and symphonies on his record player for us while we "read" the scores.  Once he served giant strawberries.  He told my parents I had to go to the opera, and once he drew the circle of 5ths in my lesson notebook and wrote only "LEARN THE NOTES!! " I was not a great student -- backward in many ways -- but he didn't give up. I definitely would not have become a musician without him.  ……I am so honoured to have …studied with a person possessed of such a  great level of artistry.  He could somehow transfer to us students in a subliminal way his mode of living as a musician -- it's hard to describe: old school, very refined and super tasteful, but not in an effete way.  Even as a clueless 12 year old, I could sense that he carried inside himself the whole tradition of violin playing. Perhaps it was a particularly French sensibility: we students knew he had some serious wisdom up his sleeve and we needed to pay attention, especially because his style was NOT heavy-handed.  Why he took the time to pull the four of us young Saturday students along (I was in no way remarkable) into the higher realms is a mystery…

Lisa Bent Scottformer student, violinist, Indianapolis Symphony

Mr. Israelievitch,….It was an honour and a privilege to have been your student and work with you over the years. Thank you so much for all of the opportunities you gave me, and for having such a strong musical influence on me. I would not be the musician I am today without you. I'll never forget what you taught me and how you inspired me during my studies at U of T and Chautauqua, but most of all I will miss making music with you in the Koffler Orchestra. It is going to be hard for me to accept that you're no longer here with us. I'll see to it that your unique and sincere style of playing lives on. ……..

Jamie Kruspe, former student and Concertmaster of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra; Associate Concertmaster of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and Assistant Principal Second Violin of the National Ballet Orchestra:

…A lot of memories are flooding back as I reflect on Jacques’ musicianship, none more salient than the first time I heard his Scheherazade…utterly beautiful…

Marie Berard, Concertmaster, COC orchestra

He was such a relaxed player and taught his students how to relax while playing. ”Tighten your butt,”  he was overheard telling a student whose shoulders were tense……… He ensured that students played scales and etudes as music as he himself did; he made every note count—whether practicing, rehearsing, or performing. It was always music.

…Many treasured memories come to mind of Jacques as a wonderful colleague. I will always remember our collaborations in teaching and exchanging masterclasses between York and the University of Toronto. My viola students at the Faculty of Music appreciated Jacques’ practical and musical suggestions, ones that drew each student to achieve a step beyond…I also greatly appreciated his input for the 2006 Orchestral Excerpts book that we put together for RCM Examinations. He was so generous with his time, his expertise, and his beautiful organized collection of meticulously marked orchestral violin parts. His edition of the Kreutzer etudes is a rich resource for students, encouraging them to think artistically of each piece while honing their skills………

Kathy Rappaport, violist, professor U of T


Jacques’ passing leaves a hole in so many peoples’ lives. It feels…disorienting. He was a man who was true to himself and always fair to others….He was very democratic in the essentially top-down institution of the symphonic world. He was a blessing….

Paul Meyer, Principal Second Violin TSO, chamber partner

…Mr. Israelievitch was an enormous influence on who I am today as a person and as a player. I had played violin for ten years before studying with him and he was the first to lift the curtain and show me the technical and intellectual tools I needed to become a musician. Without exaggeration, I think about what he taught me every day. I am privileged to have studied with him…. 

Rosalyn Green, former student, teacher, viola fellow Civic Orchestra of Chicago

He was so supportive of me beginning when I was brand new to the orchestra and very shy. So kind. Warm heart. I loved his playing so much. I loved his sweet sweet sound, his singing vibrato, his beautiful bow arm..

Etsuko Kimura, Assistant Concertmaster, TSO

Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Conductor

Je garderai toujours de magnifiques souvenirs humains et musicaux avec lui.


Rebecca Penneys, Professor Emerita, Eastman

It was my great joy and honor to spend 16 summers at Chautauqua with Jacques. He was the violinist of my trio, the New Arts Trio. We also studied at IU together, and we began our association in chamber music class. Jacques was a terrific player, teacher and mentor and we have lost a great great treasure. He was a real Mensch....

Winona Zelenka,Assistant Principal Cello, TSO

...One morning when I was a new member of the TSO, I was scanning the communal notice board for information. The Concertmaster came up beside me and made a funny comment at which I blushed. Then he said, "And who are YOU?"  I introduced myself and this began a long friendship that included a rewarding chamber music relationship.. ..He loved good food, wine and lots and lots of playing. He was an insatiable musician, and I always got the feeling from his elegant, European-style chamber music reading nights that he could've gone on forever. I expected him to go on forever. He was also an amazing family man, calling his wife Gabrielle "Angel" and keeping a playful romance up with her that I admired. His sons were all saturated with his passion, I believe, without being schooled in any way or made to fit any sort of mold. At home especially, his sense of humour was ever-present and sometimes naughty. He kept the same tiny pencil in his pocket for rehearsals, and we had a silly joke about "Stubby"... When Jacques told me, on a TSO tour, that he was about to retire, I'd never seen him look so well or youthful. This was the Jacques that I will always think of, his excited face lit up with the  possibilities ahead. I have been permanently affected by his lust for life and his beautiful rich violin sound, and am so glad of it.

…On a cold winter Monday night in 2012 or 2013, the Koffler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jacques was rehearsing Mendelssohn’s Octet. I was playing the Cello 2 part which includes one short but extremely difficult passage. I had practised the passage diligently. When the rehearsal ended at 10:00 p.m., Jacques walked over to me and said, within earshot of the other members of the cello section, “Anita, that sounded really good.” I felt such a feeling of elation that I went home and emailed a few close people, telling them what Jacques had said and that I was feeling….ecstatic.… His few words erased a lifetime of feelings of inferiority in relation to my skill level as a cellist. Whenever the doubt creeps back I close my eyes and relive that moment.

Anita Zafrani, amateur cellist

This video was made in dedication to Jacques Israelievitch, who was a very special and devoted mentor to me. Appropriately, today marks the one year anniversary of his passing from lung cancer.

On the second anniversary of his passing: “I still recall his encouragement, faith, and warm smile as if I had just come out of a lesson yesterday. Thank you for continuing to inspire all that I do…..…

Stelth Ng , former student, violinist, pianist, photographer, filmmaker · 


As my brother Michael said, “Jacques brought the family average way up.”

Concertmaster, soft clay impressions of Jacques’ hands in the artist's mandala form, Neil Tetkowski, 1990

Concertmaster, Neil Tetkowski, 1990, soft clay impressions of Jacques’ hands in the artist's mandala form