Obituary: Mendi Rodan

Born Yassi, Romania, April 15, 1929. Died Jerusalem, May 9, 2009, aged 80.

June 17, 2009
Musical leader Mendi Rodan

Musical leader Mendi Rodan

One of Israel’s leading conductors and music advisers, Mendi Rodan was hounded after applying to leave Romania.

At 16 he was the first violinist of the National Symphonic Orchestra of Romania, and at 24 its principal conductor. This despite the fact that in 1941, when he was 12, his father and other relatives had been murdered in a pogrom in their home town of Yassi.

His parents gave him and his two brothers a good educational start. Young Mendi Rosenblum, as he was, began studying music at five. After the war the depleted family suffered financial hardship but he entered university as an engineering, switching to music.

His rapid ascendancy as a violinist and conductor came to an abrupt halt when, in 1958, aged 29, he applied for a visa to Israel. His professional positions were immediately rescinded.

Two years later, he emigrated to Israel with his wife, Judith, and their two little boys. He had changed his name to Rodan on his marriage in 1953.

His talent was soon apparent in Israel’s highly competitive music world. He was conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Ramat Gan from 1961-63 and the Israel Radio Orchestra from 1963-72. He was guest conductor with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the 1964 Israel Festival, the start of a long professional relationship with Israel’s top orchestra. He was IPO associate conductor from 1993-97.

Abroad he conducted the Oslo Philharmonic from 1972-76; the Belgian National Orchestra, where he was also music director from 1983-89; and made guest appearances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra and university orchestras across the USA.

He was active in educating the rising generation of musicians. From 1984-93 he headed the Jerusalem Rubin Academy of Music and Dance. He was a member of the Education Ministry’s Council for Art and Culture and the Israel Council for Higher Education. In 2004 he became professor of conducting at Tel Aviv University.

In 2004 he received a Medal of Distinction from Italy and, in 2006, the Israel Prize for his contribution to Israeli music. In April this year, seven of his prodigies performed in a celebration 80th birthday concert — in Rodan’s absence because of cancer.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and grandchildren.

Last updated: 3:40pm, September 23 2009