Mehta, Zubin°

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MEHTA, ZUBIN ° (1936– ), conductor. Mehta, the son of the conductor Mehli Mehta, was born in Bombay. He received training in violin and piano as a child and formed an ambition to conduct. He started his professional career in Vienna and England. Mehta was then music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1962–67) and chief conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1962–68). He was the youngest person to hold such an appointment with a leading orchestra in the U.S. and the first in North America to share a joint appointment with two major orchestras. Mehta made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1965 (Aida) and his London opera debut with Otello in 1977. He was musical director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1978–91), and from 1998 of the Bavarian Staatsoper in Munich. He also served as music director of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Though non-Jewish, Mehta played an important role in the musical life of Israel. He first appeared with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1961 and the close contact between him and the orchestra was maintained ever since. The ipo appointed Mehta music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and music director for life in 1981. He conducts the orchestra in subscription concerts, special concerts, and major national events, and in concerts in development towns, kibbutzim, and army camps. During both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War he canceled all engagements and hastened to Israel to conduct special concerts and to generally identify himself with Israel. He also conducted the ipo on worldwide tours of Europe, North and South America, and the Far East. Mehta realized a longtime ambition in 1994, when he brought the ipo to India. He won countless awards and distinctions in many countries. In Israel he was awarded honorary doctorates and the Hebrew University also named a wing of the Musicology Department after him and his father. Mehta was also awarded a special prize at the Israel Prize presentations for 1991 and he was the recipient of the Wolf Foundation Prize for Music (1995–96). He was an Honorary Citizen of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Mehta conducted an encore from Tristan and Isolde with the Israel Philharmonic in 1981, but a Holocaust survivor interrupted his performance. Mehta halted the performance and since then has never included Wagner's music in his performances in Israel. His numerous recordings range from a cycle of Mahler symphonies and operas by Verdi and Puccini to works by contemporary American composers. Mehta's performances generally favored romantic warmth of expression and voluptuous sonority, combined with bold attack and rhythmic vigor and reinforced by boundless self-confidence.


Grove online; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997); M. Bookspan and R. Yockey, Zubin Mehta (1978, 19802).

[Naama Ramot (2nd ed.)]