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Kennedy center honors for maestro Zubin Mehta

October 2006
Kennedy center honors for maestro Zubin Mehta

Any list that's exclusively made up of India-born global citizens would be rather short, but it is bound to include Amartya Sen (academia), Shashi Tharoor (diplomacy), Mira Nair (film) and Zubin Mehta (music). What's unusual about these four Indians who enjoy wide renown while living in the West is that, in an official sense at least, they've chosen to remain citizens of India. Zubin Mehta – along with Andrew Llyod Webber, Steven Spielberg, Dolly Parton and William "Smokey" Robinson – will receive the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors. In a distinguished career that spans decades, Mehta has conducted top-flight orchestras and set impressive records along the way in North America and Europe. The son of Mehli Mehta, founding conductor of the Bombay Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta grew up in India as a musical prodigy who later abandoned his medical studies and went on to conduct, while still in his twenties, the storied orchestras of Berlin and Vienna. The talent in the family runs deep. Zarin Mehta, Zubin's brother, is executive director of the New York Philharmonic, and their cousin Bejun is a leading countertenor. At the age of 25 in 1961, Zubin Mehta was appointed music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra; at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, too, he became the youngest conductor ever to take over as music director. And at the New York Philharmonic, the oldest symphony orchestra in the nation, his 13-year tenure as music director still stands as a record in terms of duration. A long association with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, dating back to 1969, is one of his most striking accomplishments; in 1981, he was appointed its music director for life. Known for his flamboyance and command of the repertoire, Mehta wins raves from audiences no matter where he performs. With the Bavarian State Opera, which he led until this year, Mehta visited India in 2005 for a tsunami benefit concert. His many awards include a Padma Vibhushan. Mehta's autobiography in German, The Score of My Life: Memories, was published earlier this year.

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