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Zubin Mehta (b1936)


Zubin Mehta’s father, Mehli Mehta, was a violinist who at one time played in the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli, founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra, and conducted the American Youth Orchestra. Zubin Mehta has recalled that he was ‘…brainwashed with classical music from the cradle’, and initially learnt to play the piano and violin, as well as to conduct; by the time he was sixteen he was conducting rehearsals of his father’s orchestra. He studied medicine for two years but then abandoned this path when he was eighteen in order to study conducting at the Vienna Academy of Music with Hans Swarowsky, who accurately predicted that he would become ‘a great figure in the history of music’. While in Vienna he also played the double-bass professionally, and was able to attend the final performances given by Furtwängler and to observe Karajan at first hand. Subsequently Mehta received guidance from Alceo Galliera and Carlo Zecchi at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, and at Tanglewood from Eleazar de Carvalho. He took the first prize in the 1958 International Conductors’ Competition organised by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, as a result of which he worked as an assistant conductor with the orchestra for a year, and was also a prizewinner in the Koussevitzky Competition at Tanglewood.

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