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The Zubin Mehta File

September 2009
The Zubin Mehta File


2 Semesters he spent in medical school

4 Vienna New Year’s Concerts he has conducted

5 Orchestras that have named him “Honorary Conductor”

13 Years spent as principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic

22 Age when he made his conducting debut

40 Years connected to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

73 His current age (He was born April 28, 1936, in Bombay)


"I belong to India, first off, then I belong to Israel, to Los Angeles, to everywhere I have worked and lived." (Outlook India)

“My father started the orchestra (Bombay Symphony Orchestra) in 1935, the year before I was born, so I don’t remember exactly when I heard music first. It was simply a part of my life.” (Opera magazine)

“In India, our parents choose our professions for us. Mine told me to be a doctor. But I had a cousin who was a very good pianist in Vienna, and because he was three years older my parents had the confidence to send me there.” (Opera magazine)


Mehta was born to a Parsi family whose immense musical talent spans several generations. His late father, Mehli Mehta, was a violinist, founding conductor of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra, and longtime conductor of the American Youth Symphony. His brother Zarin is executive director of the New York Philharmonic, and his son, Mervon, is executive director of performing arts at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory.

Mehta graduated from St. Mary’s High School and St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. After a stint in medical school, he went to study conducting at the Music Academy in Vienna. He won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition in 1958 and within a few years had conducted the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic, presaging what would be a meteoric rise in the world of orchestral music.

Among his eminent roles, he served as Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1960 to 1967, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1962 to 1978, and Music Director and Principal Conductor of the New York Philharmonic from 1978 to 1991. His longtime relationship with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra resulted in his being named Music Director for Life in 1981. Since 2005, he has been a conductor in Valencia, Spain.

Mehta has two children from his first wife, Carmen, who later married his brother Zarin. He has been married for 40 years to his second wife, Nancy, a former actress.


During his brilliant career, Mehta has received virtually every award and honor that a musical conductor could aspire for. In 1995, he received the prestigious Wolf Prize in Arts. In 1999, he was given the "Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award" of the United Nations. In 2001, he received India’s Padma Vibhushan, and in 2006, a Kennedy Center Honor. In addition to being Honorary Conductor of five major orchestras, he has also been named Honorary Citizen of Florence, Italy, and Tel Aviv, Israel.

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