Zubin Mehta: In Conversation with the New York Times.


September 1, 2014

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Zubin Mehta is an Indian-born conductor who has directed many of the world’s finest orchestras. He is the music director for life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Interviewed by Kate Murphy | NYTimes


READING “The White Tiger,” by Aravind Adiga, an Indian author. This book shows the life of a young boy growing up in the caste system in a small town where there are very poor conditions and how he fights that and comes out of it. I grew up in Bombay in a middle-class home so I have no connection to this, but it’s interesting for me to know how, I would say, the majority of Indians grow up.

I am preparing Haydn’s “Creation” to perform at La Scala in October so I reread the first chapter of Genesis before I opened the score. Haydn takes sentences out of Genesis and you go from day to day. It’s an hour and half before he finally comes to the seventh day. It is one of the most magnificent pieces of music. There is the most loving duet between Adam and Eve. But Eve does say “I am your servant and I will obey your every command,” which today is a little bit politically incorrect.

LISTENING I recently went to a concert of Michael Feinstein. He is a walking encyclopedia of Gershwin but he did a concert celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He introduced, or reintroduced, a lot of the old movie scores in bits and pieces. Scores by Miklos Rozsa, Bronislaw Kaper, Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, etc. They were all fine musicians. Many were émigrés from Europe escaping Hitler who made their livelihoods in Hollywood. It was the most enjoyable and educational evening for me.

WATCHING I recently watched this film “Calvary.” It’s a fine film about an Irish village and how the priest copes with all the different juxtapositions of the people in that town.

I also saw “Boyhood.” They took 12 years to make this film, so you see every character growing up physically. I liked it but it languishes. You have to have patience. Another film I saw was the one about Indian food, “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” It’s quite amusing and breezy. But I think I should have been engaged as a consultant.

FOLLOWING I’m not online. My life is not that. I have a homepage but I have never seen it myself. My secretary does that.

EATING My favorite food is 100 percent Indian. I’m a Parsee. I’m a Zoroastrian. We have our own cuisine, which is very spicy. We have a Sunday dish called dhansak. That’s three or four different kinds of lentils, heavily spiced, eaten with brown fried rice with chicken in it. It’s something you eat and go to sleep. It’s very heavy. I put chiles in everything I eat no matter where I am. I’ve had Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris almost threatening to kick me out because I put chiles in their food.

Kate Murphy is a journalist in Houston who writes frequently for The New York Times.