The rhythm of life

By Steve K Walz, November 11, 2011
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One of the most beloved artists in Tel Aviv's cosmopolitan society, Maestro Zubin Mehta, has transformed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO), which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, into one of the world's premier musical ensembles.

Zubin Mehta, who has been the music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for 40 years, was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in a musical environment. His father, Mehli Mehta, founded the Bombay Symphony and was music director of the American Youth Symphony in Los Angeles.

Despite this influence, his initial field of study was medicine. At the age of 18, he abandoned his fledgling medical career to attend the Academy of Music in Vienna.

Seven years later, he conducted both the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. Maestro Mehta has rapidly become one of the world's most sought-after orchestral and operatic conductors.

From 1961 to 1967, he was music director of the Montreal Symphony and he became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1962, a post he retained until 1978.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra appointed Mehta as its music advisor in 1969, music director in 1977, and music director for life in 1981.

Combining concerts, recordings and tours, Zubin Mehta has conducted thousands of performances on five continents with the IPO.

Since 1986, he has also acted as music advisor and chief conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the summer festival in Florence, Italy.

September 1998 marked his five-year appointment as music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

In 1978, Maestro Mehta became the music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. During his 13 years in New York, he conducted more than 1,000 concerts, holding the position longer than any music director in the orchestra's modern history.

Zubin Mehta has been the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions, in many countries.

In Israel, he has been awarded honorary doctorates by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Tel-Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute. The Hebrew University named a wing of the musicology department after Mehta and his late father.

In 1991, Mehta received a special award during the Israel Prize presentation, and he is also the recipient of the 1995-6 Wolf Foundation Prize for Music and an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

    Last updated: 4:09pm, November 11 2011