Zubin Mehta (born April 29, 1936) is an Indian-born conductor of European classical music.
Zubin Mehta was born into an aristocratic Indian Parsi family in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, the son of Mehli and Tehmina Mehta. His father Mehli Mehta was a violinist and founding conductor of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. Zubin initially intended to study medicine, but eventually became a music student in Vienna 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, he made his conducting debut in Vienna. The same year he won the International Conducting Competition in Liverpool 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. Other appointments followed: Musical Director the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1962-1978); the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1978-1991), becoming the longest holder of the latter post. He has conducted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra since 1970 and was made its Music Director for Life in 1981. Additionally since 1998, he has been Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
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 Rome, joining the tenors again in 1994 at the Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles. In June 1994, Mehta performed the Mozart Requiem, along with the members of the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the ruins of Sarajevo'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 Buchenwald concentration camp in the German city of Weimar, with both the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, sitting alongside each other. He toured his native country India and home city Mumbai (Bombay) 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, Italy 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. Mehta's life is also documented in Terry Sanders' film Portrait of Zubin Mehta and in a book by Martin Bookspan & Ross Yockey entitled "Zubin: The Zubin Mehta Story".
Zubin Mehta is especially famous for his interpretations of large scale neo-romantic symphonic music of composers like Anton Bruckner, Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler. He has also made a recording of Indian 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.
In 2000 his brother, Zarin Mehta, was appointed as the executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2001, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award.
In July/August 2005 Zubin visited Bombay (now Mumbai) and also supervised a programme organised by "The Mehli Mehta music foundation".
On 26 December 2005, the first anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami, Zubin Mehta along with the Bavarian State Orchestra performed for the first time in Madras (now Chennai) at the world famous "Madras Music Academy". This special Tsunami memorial concert was organised by the Madras German 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 Laurete in economics) and the Tamil Nadu governor, Surjit Singh Barnala. He also performed in Delhi on December 28 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium. 2006 will be his last year with the Bavarian State Orchestra.