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Zubin Mehta (born April 29, 1936) is an Indianmarker conductor of Western classical music.

Early life

Zubin Mehta was born into a [[Parsi]/[Gujarati]] family in Bombaymarker (now Mumbai), Indiamarker, the son of Mehli and Tehmina Mehta. His father Mehli Mehta was a violinist and founding conductor of the Bombaymarker Symphony Orchestra.

Mehta is an alumnus of St. Mary's High School, Mazagoan, Mumbai and St. Xavier's College, Mumbaimarker. Zubin initially intended to study medicine, but eventually became a music student in Viennamarker at the age of 18, under the eminent instructor Hans Swarowsky. Also at the same academy along with Zubin were conductor Claudio Abbado and conductor–pianist Daniel Barenboim.


In 1958, Mehta made his conducting debut in Viennamarker. The same year he won the International Conducting Competition in Liverpoolmarker and was appointed assistant conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mehta soon rose to the rank of chief conductor when he was made Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1960, a post he held until 1967. In 1961, he was named assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; however, the orchestra's music director designate, Georg Solti, was not consulted on the appointment, and Solti subsequently resigned in protest; soon after, Mehta himself was named Music Director of the orchestra, and held the post from 1962 to 1978.

In 1978 Mehta became the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and remained there until his resignation in 1991, becoming the longest holder of the post.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra appointed Mehta its Music Advisor in 1969, Music Director in 1977, and made him its Music Director for Life in 1981.

Since 1985, Mehta has been chief conductor of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florencemarker. Additionally, from 1998 until 2006, Mehta was Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munichmarker. The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra named him its Honorary Conductor. Since 2005, Mehta has been the main conductor (together with Lorin Maazel) of the new opera house of the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciènciesmarker in Valenciamarker.


Zubin Mehta received praise early in his career for dynamic interpretations of the large scale symphonic music of Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler and Franz Schmidt. He has also made a recording of Indianmarker instrumentalist, Ravi Shankar's Sitar Concerto No. 2, with Shankar and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His conducting is also renowned as being flamboyant and forceful in performance.

Mehta has conducted the Vienna New Year's Concert in the years 1990, 1995, 1998 and 2007.

As a double bassist, one of his most memorable performances was in a collaboration with Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim in a performance of Schubert's Trout Quintet in the summer of 1969.


In 1990, he conducted the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Orchestra del Teatro dell'Opera di Roma in the first ever Three Tenors concert in Romemarker, joining the tenors again in 1994 at the Dodger Stadiummarker, Los Angelesmarker. In June 1994, Mehta performed the Mozart Requiem, along with the members of the Sarajevomarker Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the ruins of Sarajevomarker's National Library, in a fund raising concert for the victims of armed conflict and remembrance of the thousands of people killed in the Yugoslav wars. On August 29, 1999, he conducted Mahler Symphony No. 2 (Resurrection), at the vicinity of Buchenwaldmarker concentration camp in the Germanmarker city of Weimarmarker, with both the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, sitting alongside each other. He toured his native country Indiamarker and home city Mumbaimarker (Bombaymarker) in 1984, with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and again in November-December 1994, with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, along with soloists Itzhak Perlman and Gil Shaham. In 1997 and 1998, Mehta worked in collaboration with Chinese film director Zhang Yimou on a production of the opera Turandot by Giacomo Puccini which they took to Florence, Italymarker and then to Beijing, China where it was staged, in its actual surroundings, in the Forbidden City with over 300 extras and 300 soldiers. for eight historic performances. The making of this production was chronicled in a documentary called The Turandot Project which Mehta narrated.


In 2005 Mehta made his debut(!) with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. On 26 December 2005, the first anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunamimarker, Zubin Mehta along with the Bavarian State Orchestra performed for the first time in Chennaimarker (formerly called Madras) at the world famous "Madras Music Academy". This special Tsunami memorial concert was organised by the Madrasmarker Germanmarker consulate along with the Max-Mueller Bhavan/Goethe institute. The team performed to a packed hall of select invitees. Nearly 3000 people turned up including eminent personalities such as Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate in economics) and the Tamil Nadumarker governor, Surjit Singh Barnala. He also performed in Delhimarker on December 28 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium. 2006 was his last year with the Bavarian State Orchestra.

Honors and awards

At the Israel Prize ceremony in 1991, Mehta was awarded a special prize in recognition of his unique devotion to Israel and to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1995, Laureate of the Wolf Prize in Arts.

In 1999, Zubin Mehta was presented the "Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award" of the United Nations.

The Government of India honoured Mehta in 1966 with the Padma Bhushan and in 2001 with India's second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan.

In September, 2006 the Kennedy Centermarker announced Maestro Mehta as one of the receipients of that year's Kennedy Center Honors. These were presented on December 2, 2006.

On February 3, 2007, Zubin Mehta was the recipient of the Second Annual Bridgebuilder Award at Loyola Marymount Universitymarker

Conductor Karl Böhm awarded Mehta the Nikisch Ring — the Vienna Philharmonic Ring of Honor.

Mehta is an honorary citizen of both Florencemarker and Tel Avivmarker and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Operamarker in 1997. In 2001 he was bestowed the title of “Honorary Conductor” of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and in 2004 the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra awarded him the same title, as did the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 2006. At the end of his tenure with the Bavarian State Opera he was named Honorary Conductor of the Bavarian State Orchestra and Honorary Member of the Bavarian State Opera, and the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien appointed him honorary member in November 2007.

Personal life

Mehta's first marriage was to Canadian soprano Carmen Lasky from 1958 until 1964. They have one son (Mervon Mehta, b. 1960) and one daughter (Zarina, b. 1958). The divorce was amicable . "We grew apart. It just happened. I never did anything nasty to him, and he never did anything nasty to me," Carmen said in 1968.

Mehta married Nancy Kovack, a former Americamarker film and television actress, on 20 July 1969 .

Two years after divorcing Zubin, Carmen Mehta married Zubin's brother Zarin Mehta. Carmen and Zarin have daughter Rohanna (1967) and son Rustom (1968). In 2000 his brother, Zarin Mehta, was appointed executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mehta's life has been documented in Terry Sanders' film Portrait of Zubin Mehta and in a book by Martin Bookspan and Ross Yockey entitled Zubin: The Zubin Mehta Story. His autobiography, written with Renate von Matuschka, is Die Partitur meines Lebens.

References in popular culture

The Muppet, Zubin Beckmesser, is named after him. The second part of the name (Beckmesser) being a character from Richard Wagner's opera, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.

The Frank Zappa song Billy the Mountain includes a character of whom it is said "some folks say he looked like Zubin Mehta." This is a reference to a performance by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1970, in the UCLA basketball arenamarker, of a series of Zappa's orchestral pieces. The performance was prefaced by a short speech from Zappa, who then turned to Mehta and said, "Hit it, Zubin! And anyways make it good!"

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