Horst Solomon, who plays the horn in the Israel Philharmonic, is the last of a remarkable breed.

Solomon, at 65, is the sole active surviving performer from the original Israel Philharmonic. It was first called the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, and was launched in 1936, with Arturo Toscanini leading the musicians on an extensive tour of what would 12 years later become Israel, as well as Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

"It never would have happened - that running off into the desert to play Beethoven - had they not purged German orchestra of Jewish players."

Solomon recalls that the philharmonic, which plays under Leonard Bernstein tonight at the Kennedy Center, was the product of performers whom Hilter ostracized from Germany, and later Russia and Poland.

"I was only 23. And I was playing the horn in the Berlin Theatre Orchestra, a group that no longer exists, and one day I simply got a letter telling me that my services would no longer be desired. It was as simple as that. There was no appeal."

The ousted musicians, Solomon said, "formed all-Jewish orchestras. And I was in one of them when I hoard from Bronislaw Huberman," the virtuoso violinist and founder of what was to become the Israel Philharmonic.

"He got me out of Germany.It was literally one of those cases where it may have been the last train. I was so lucky. There were no survivors. My father and sister died in concentration camps, and my brother died after he went to England."

It has been 42 years since Solomon played under Toscanini, but, like virtually everyone who ever played under the most lauded of the century's conductors, Solomon is unstoppable once he starts spinning off Toscanini stories.

"It was a real problem for us because he didn't know German at all. So we finally had to settle for his version of English. But every time he cursed - and it happened all the time - he went back to Italian.

"Toscanini behaved like a god. I'll never forget the time a Russian trumpet player failed to play a note in the Brahms Third and Toscanini just stopped the music, he was in such a rage.

"And I remember the time he got caught in a taxi in a traffic jam. He got it at 9:30 for a 10 a.m. rehearsal. It was about a 15-minute walk, and at exactly 9:45 he left the cab and stomped his way to the concert hall.

"He was the most famous conductor of the century, and without his support the orchestra might very well have not started."

The other conductor whose name frequently recurs in Solomon's conversation is Leonard Bernstein. "When he first came to Israel, he was really young and he has hardly stopped since.

"I remember the early days when he thought he had a language problem, because he didn't speak Yiddish. So he would bring along as a translator his father, who was a first-generation Russian immigrant to the United States. He loves to play on the keyboards with us, as well as conduct."

Solomon still sounds like a man whose heart is in Europe. "You know, most of us who first came to Israel thought of ourselves as Europeans.Now the state is much more American and Oriental." The orchestra, he points out, now has non-Jewish members.

"It was 20 to 25 years before I went back to Germany, and that was with the orchestra. But I still had the best time of my life in Germany. If I could, I think I would have stayed in Germany. The only reason to leave one's country is fear.

"I'll never forget that first trip back to Berlin. I saw the house in which I was born, and I burst out in tears. And the same happened when I saw where I went to school.

"It's true I felt like a stranger, but I'll never feel like any other place is home."