Zubin Mehta, the renowned conductor associated with the World Cup concerts of the Three Tenors, holds the amazing track record of wielding the baton for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for over half a century. He first conducted the orchestra by substituting for Eugene Ormandy back in 1961 on two weeks’ notice. At that time he had already made his debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
During his visit to
with the orchestra in September 2002, Mehta spoke of the main difference of the orchestra: “I personally picked every musician in the orchestra. There are 65 musicians in all.” Taipei
The then 66-year-old Mehta, who first brought the orchestra to
in1989, revealed that he could institute changes at will. In fact, he initiated the so-called jeans concerts with the musicians putting on very casual attires. He himself dressed up in Indian kurta. But so far, Mehta and his musicians chose to stick to tails during their Taipei concert tours. Taiwan
Mehta had no union problem. Whenever an opening in the orchestra had to be filled, he could cast around – even abroad – for a musician.
He remarked during an interview on the tourist bus from the
Taoyuan Airport to at that time: “Half the orchestra today is Russian. Fifty percent of the musicians are born in Taipei .” Israel
The Associated Press reported that year that the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra had to cancel a
concert tour for it could not find an American security firm willing to guard its musicians. The orchestra was originally scheduled to perform in U.S. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, but called off the leg of its international tour when it couldn’t organize a security company to protect its musicians. U.S.
Mehta thought it “stupid” of the insurance company to refuse to cover and protect the musicians. During the
visits of the orchestra over the years, air-tight security procedures were put in place even before the arrival of the musicians. Each concert venue had to be thoroughly checked beforehand. Taiwan
Asked if it was “inconvenient” to be working with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mehta quipped: “No, it’s not inconvenient. We’re not afraid. In
, we are playing to full house all the time. In contrast, the restaurants have been half full.” Israel
Only about three months earlier that year, the orchestra was playing a concert when a suicide bomber attacked in a café only about five or six minutes from the concert hall.
“The musicians take it as part of life,” Mehta said. “Not one complaint can be heard from them. They come on tour, leaving behind their families. This is our life. We have to be positive.”
Mehta did say before the end of the interview: ”We are looking forward to playing in
next year.” New York
Bombay, India, Mehta – an Indian passport holder holder with the green card of an immigrant in America and a Zoroastrian – went to when he was 18. He began conducting when he was 16. Vienna is now his home. Los Angeles
Before deciding on a career in conducting, he was studying to be a medical worker. “Family indoctrination” had to do with it, he said. He later opted to get out, choosing a future in music.
Mehta’s father, however, was a conductor until he retired in 2000. His last concert with the American Youth Symphony in
even featured cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Los Angeles
Mehta grew up exposed to music all the time. His father played the violin and the piano. As son, he tried to do the same.
During his years in
, he idolized Herbert von Karajan. He went to all his rehearsals and concerts, learning a lot from von Karajan in the process. Vienna
Mehta became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s music adviser in 1969, music director in 1977 and music director for life in 1981. As of 2002, he had already conducted the orchestra in 1,070 concerts. He spends three months yearly with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1998, Mehta also became the director of the Bavarian State Opera in
Mehta cited working with Chinese director Zhang Yimou in Puccini’s “Turandot” years ago as one of his rather unforgettable experiences. The opera was staged in
Beijing and in . Florence
As of this writing, the 76-year-old Mehta is preparing to return to
Taiwan with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for a New Year’s concert in on January 3, 2013. The maestro remains active, perhaps still needing only at least one hour of sleep before a concert as he claimed years ago. Taipei