Bavarian Rhapsody

Zubin Mehta will enthrall audiences in New Delhi and Chennai next month
Nitya Rao

New Delhi, November 2: Classical music connoisseurs in the Capital are in for a special treat this winter. The word is out that the Parsi musical maestro Zubin Mehta will wield his magical baton while conducting the Bavarian State Orchestra in Delhi on December 28. The performance will be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, I P Estate. The two-city tour includes a concert in Chennai.

This is the first time that Mehta is bringing the Bavarian State Orchestra — the oldest in Germany — to India. ”It’s still to early for us to say what pieces will be included on the programme schedule, but rest assured it will be spectacular,” says a representative of the German embassy.

Mehta it seems was drawn into the musical force field that enveloped his family right from the time of his birth. In a curiously timed coincidence, he was born on April 29, 1936 on the first anniversary of the Bombay Orchestra, which was founded by his father, Mehli Mehta. After giving up a career in medicine in order to study music in Vienna, Mehta leapfrogged from one success to another. His career graph is a long string of ”firsts.” At age 25, he was the youngest man to conduct the Vienna and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. He is also the first and, so far, the only music director of the Israel Philharmonic. His debut in London, was the first time an Indian had appeared with a major British orchestra.

A great cultural icon, Mehta’s contribution hasn’t only been confined to the world of fine arts and entertainment. His genius lies in his use of music as a tool to bridge cultures and forge a bond between people who haven’t always seen eye to eye on political issues. A case in point is his 10-day tour of the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1988 with the New York Philharmonic, which led to a historic joint concert with the Soviet culture ministry’s State Symphony Orchestra in Moscow’s Gorky Park.

In 1994, he brought the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to India, an ambition he had nursed for several years. By conducting the orchestra in Mumbai and New Delhi, Mehta helped bridge a political gap that had prevented the Israeli orchestra from performing here for three decades.