Zubin Mehta

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About Zubin Mehta

During his energetic heyday as leader of two major American symphony orchestras, Zubin Mehta epitomized the notion of conductor as youthful celebrity. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, in 1936, Mehta conducted full rehearsals of the city’s symphony orchestra, founded by his father, at age 16. After abandoning his medical studies, he earned a conducting diploma at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, and was soon guest-conducting groups like the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Word of his precocious skill, dashing podium style, and knowledge of Germany’s Romantic composers soon spread, and he became music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1960 and of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1962—making him the first person to simultaneously direct two North American symphony orchestras. An impressive 1965 recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 with the Vienna Philharmonic enhanced his growing reputation, as did a stupendous 1975 version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 with the same group. In 1977, he took over the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, later conducting them through the Gulf War and a concert at Buchenwald concentration camp. In 1978, following austere ultra-modernist Pierre Boulez’s tenure, he brought his more conservative charm to Manhattan as leader of the New York Philharmonic, commissioning Ravi Shankar’s Sitar Concerto No. 2 and conducting annual concerts in Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. During the early ’90s, the podium populist conducted the first Three Tenors concerts. He also enjoyed a long tenure with the Bavarian State Orchestra, which he began conducting in 1998, and continued leading the Israel Philharmonic until 2019.

Bombay, India
April 29, 1936

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