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Born in Bombay, India, Maestro Zubin Mehta 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 musical influence, his initial field of study was in medicine. At the age of eighteen, he abandoned his medical career to attend the Academy of Music in Vienna, where he studied with Hans Swarowsky. In 1958 he won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition and was also a prize-winner of the summer academy at Tanglewood. By 1961, he has already conducted the Vienna, Berlin, and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras. He has rapidly become one of the world’s most sought after orchestral and operatic conductors.
Maestro Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony from 1961 to 1967. He was appointed Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1962, a post he retained until 1978. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) appointed him Music Advisor in 1969, Music Director in 1977, and Music Director for Life in 1981. When Mehta announced his retirement, he was named Music Director Emeritus. Combining concerts, recordings, and tours, Maestro Mehta has conducted thousands of performances on five continents with the IPO. Since 1985, 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 over 1,000 concerts, holding the position longer than any Music Director in the Orchestra’s modern history.
Maestro Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor with Puccini’s Tosca in Montreal in 1963. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, La Scala in Milan, the opera houses of Chicago and Florence, and the Salzburg Festival. In October 2006 he opened the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia and was the President of the annual Festival del Mediterrani in Valencia until June 2014.
Maestro Mehta has won countless awards and distinctions in many countries. In Israel he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, and the Weizmann Institute; the Hebrew University has named a wing of the Musicology Department after him and his late father, conductor Mehli Mehta. In 1991, he was awarded a special prize at the ceremony of the Israel Prize presentation, and he is the recipient of the 1995-6 Wolf Foundation Prize for Music. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997, of the Bavarian State Opera in 2006, and of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien in 2007. The title of “Honorary Conductor” was bestowed upon him by the following orchestras: Vienna Philharmonic (2001), Munich Philharmonic (2004), Los Angeles Philharmonic (2006), Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (2006), the Bavarian State Orchestra (2006) and Staatskapelle Berlin (2014). In September 2006, he was presented with the prize “Una vita nella musica – Artur Rubinstein” at Teatro La Fenice in Venice, in December 2006 he received the Kennedy Center Honors, and in March 2007 he was presented with the Dan David Prize. In 2008 he was honored by the Japanese Imperial Family with the Praemium Imperiale. In 2011 Maestro Mehta received a special distinction in getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame In May 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Russian Academy of Art, in July 2012 he was bestowed The Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and in October 2012 he received the Presidential Medal of Distinction from Israeli President Shimon Peres. In September 2013 the President of India honored him with the prestigious Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony.
2006 saw the publication in Germany and Israel of Maestro Mehta’s autobiography, Die Partitur meines Leben: Erinnerungen (The Score of my Life: Memories).
Maestro Mehta continues to support the discovery and furtherance of musical talents all over the world. He and his brother Zarin are co-chairman of the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Bombay, where more than 200 children are educated in Western Classical Music. The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University trains the future generation of Israel’s leading young musicians in close collaboration between Tel Aviv University and the IPO.