The President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor conferred the Golden Order of Merit on maestro Zubin Mehta, one of the greatest conductors of the modern age, who earned the decoration for his outstanding contributions to musical creativity and inspiring efforts to connect people and nations with music. Mehta first introduced himself to Slovene audiences six decades ago, when he visited Ljubljana at the invitation of Marijan Lipovšek, the then director of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra. At that occasion, Mehta conducted the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra. He returned to Slovenia in 2003 and performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and opera singer Marijana Lipovšek. He performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra three more times at the Ljubljana Festival – in 2007, 2015 and 2019 – while in 2008 he conducted the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
Born in India, Zubin Mehta was a prodigy who first stood in front of an orchestra at the early age of fourteen. The son of Mehli Mehta, a violinist, concertmaster, conductor, and founder of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra, he showed conducting ambitions as a child while playing the piano and violin. After a brief foray into studying medicine, he left for Vienna, where he studied conducting at the Vienna Music Academy between 1954 and 1957. By 1961, he had already conducted the Vienna, Berlin, and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras, and won awards at the Liverpool International Conducting Competition and the summer academy at Tanglewood.
In his tenure as Music Director, Mehta excelled in orchestras around the world, leading the New York Philharmonic for thirteen years, the longest such service in its history. He was appointed Music Advisor to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969, Music Director in 1977, and Music Director for Life in 1981. Mehta has also collaborated with numerous opera theatres. He made his debut as an opera conductor in Montreal in 1963, followed by engagements at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the opera houses in Chicago and Florence, where he remains Chief Conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra to this day. The staging of Puccini’s Tosca in historic Roman locations, and that of Puccini’s Turandot in Beijing’s Forbidden City, where Mehta conducted the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra, stand out as highlights of his rich career.
Mehta is the recipient of numerous awards, honours, and titles in the USA, India, Israel, and Japan. He is an honorary member of the Vienna and Bavarian State Operas, as well as Vienna’s Society of Friends of Music. In 2006, he was appointed the Honorary Conductor for Life of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra, where he has been Chief Conductor since 1985. In 1999, he was presented the Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award of the United Nations. He demonstrates his social responsibility with the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Mumbai, where Indian children are educated in Western classical music, the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv, and Mifneh, a music education program for young Israeli Arabs. Mehta was appointed Music Advisor to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969, Music Director in 1977, and Music Director for Life in 1981.
The award statement noted:
“With a charming simplicity and playfulness, Zubin Mehta has been an enthusiastic guide to musicians and audiences for more than six decades, delighting and inspiring them. With an understanding of the many facets of musical art, he is able to draw restorative, unifying, perhaps even miraculous powers from it. As one of the greatest conductors of modern times, he has demonstrated his sense of social responsibility by supporting the musical education of young people. He is the recipient of many of the world’s most prestigious music and civic awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Peace and Tolerance Award of the United Nations. By conferring this high state decoration upon maestro Zubin Mehta, the Republic of Slovenia expresses its respect and gratitude for his outstanding contributions to musical creativity and inspiring efforts to connect people and nations with music.”
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