Conductor Zubin Mehta takes final bow with Israeli orchestra
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Star conductor Zubin Mehta took the stage in Tel Aviv on Sunday for an emotional final performance as music director of the Israel Philharmonic, retiring after 50 years with the orchestra.
The 83-year-old, who underwent treatment for a cancerous tumor last year and walked with a cane, earned a long standing ovation from the packed house as he said “goodbye to my family,” as he put it in an interview beforehand.
The final performance included Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, known as Resurrection, at the Mediterranean city’s Charles Bronfman Auditorium.
Indian-born Mehta was joined by pianist Yefim Bronfman, soprano Chen Reiss and mezzo-soprano Okka von der Damerau.
“From my heart, what this orchestra has given me .. not only this one but all the generations before them. I cannot begin to even describe what I have learned with these musicians,” he told the audience during the intermission.
At the end of the performance, flower garlands were placed around the necks of Mehta and his wife, who watched from the audience. Mehta, who will be succeeded by 30-year-old Lahav Shani, was also named the orchestra’s musical director emeritus.
The charismatic maestro has famously conducted in poignant settings, including when he led a group of Israeli and German musicians near the site of the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp in 1999, where he also conducted Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.
He also famously rushed to Israel to perform in support of the country during the 1967 Six-Day War, though he would later say he opposed the settlement building that followed in the occupied West Bank.