Bar-Illan, Pianist-cum-Editor, Dies at 73

By: Jason Keyser, Associated Press Writer

(AP) David Bar-Illan, a concert pianist-turned-journalist and an adviser to an Israeli prime minister, has died at the age of 73.

Bar-Illan died Tuesday of complications from a heart attack he suffered three years ago, according to the Jerusalem Post, where he was editor in chief from 1992-96.

Bar-Illan also wrote a column in the English-language daily, called “Eye on the Media,” in which he reviewed coverage of Israel and the Middle East conflict, often leveling harsh criticism for what he called the anti-Israel bias of the foreign press.

The Israeli native left the paper in 1996 to become Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s media adviser, serving as the chief contact between the prime minister’s office and the foreign press. The outspoken and colorful adviser shared Netanyahu’s hard-line views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In 1998, the New Yorker ran an interview with Bar-Illan in which he was quoted as describing Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, as unstable. He also joked that while his boss was an adulterer, he never had an affair with a “shiksa,” a vulgar term for a non-Jewish woman. Bar-Illan denied making the remarks.

After Netanyahu’s election defeat in 1999, both men briefly bowed out of political life.

Bar-Illan’s career as a concert pianist started in the 1960s. He recorded five albums before entering journalism and politics, adding a sixth and final album in 1999.

The last one, in which he played works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and other composers, received positive reviews.

“Bar-Illan can storm through the loudest sections without ever making an ugly sound,” said a review in The New York Times. “His playing expresses sheer joy as he revels in the technical complexities.”

Another review, in the Chicago Sun-Times, called Bar-Illan “one of the few superior artists to reach the level of achievement now linked with men such as [Rudolf] Serkin and [Artur] Rubinstein,” referring to world-renowned pianists.

Bar-Illan graduated from New York’s Juilliard School of Music in 1950 and performed as a soloist with the Israel Philharmonic and with orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.

“David Bar-Illan was an Israeli Zionist patriot in his whole being,” Netanyahu, currently finance minister, told the Jerusalem Post. “He was an outstanding artist who sacrificed years of wonderful musical creativity to engage in journalistic and public activity to help his land and his people.”

He is survived by his wife, Beverly, three children and two stepchildren. Burial will be Thursday in Jerusalem.

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