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The New York Philharmonic

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Biography
Zubin Mehta

1978–91

b. Mumbai, India, April 29, 1936

Zubin Mehta made his American debut on July 26, 1960, at Lewisohn Stadium in New York, conducting an orchestra made up largely of New York Philharmonic players in a concert of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel, and arias sung by Risë Stevens. He became the Philharmonic’s Music Director in 1978. His 13-year tenure — during which he conducted more than 1,000 concerts — was the longest in the Orchestra’s history. In May 1991 Mehta concluded his tenure in New York with three performances celebrating the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall and a series of performances of Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder at Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall). He was also made an Honorary Member of the Philharmonic, an honor formerly bestowed on Wagner, Liszt, Dvořák, Copland, and Bernstein, among others.

Throughout his career, Mehta has displayed a strong commitment to contemporary music. During his tenure as Music Director, 52 pieces were presented for the first time, 30 of them conducted by Mehta himself, including compositions by Reich, Schuman, Menotti, Druckman, Zwilich, Corigliano, and Del Tredici. Individual members of the Orchestra also achieved a new prominence during the Mehta years; over 30 made their solo debuts, many in works commissioned for them. Mehta also introduced the New York Philharmonic Ensembles, the long-running chamber series programmed by and featuring musicians from the Orchestra.

Mehta’s recordings with the Orchestra range from Verdi’s Requiem and John Knowles Paine’s Symphony No. 2 to the 1978 film score of Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. The Orchestra’s worldwide outreach flourished, with four tours to Europe (including the 1988 tour of the Soviet Union), two to Asia, four to Latin America, and six within the United States and Canada.

Prior to joining the Philharmonic, Mehta had served as music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1961–67) and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1962–78). In October 2019 he celebrated his farewell with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which he had served for 50 years. He was named the orchestra’s music director emeritus.

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