Fifty years -- the times zipped by so fast.
What’s the rush? For certain nobody asked Zubin Mehta to go.
For some 50 years, the Mumbai-born conductor was among the most popular cultural figures in Israel. Under one title or another, he served as maestro for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
As he arrived in 1969 in his early 20s, so he departs now in his early 80s, a beloved national treasure.
Nobody wants this beautiful friendship to end. Israelis would prefer an encore of many more years and symphonies from this maestro.
But age does have a way of catching up, even though we thought conductors are ageless and never retire.
The orchestra will miss him. Israel will miss him. Beethoven will miss him. Brahms wants him to stay, and certainly Mahler had no better friend.
For Israelis, classical music is the glory that offers a chance to get swept into the sublime and away from the problems of the mundane world.
Beethoven lived even in Auschwitz, and during the Cold War Thaw, scores of refuseniks arrived at Ben Gurion Airport clutching their violins.
As source, please do read this from Inna Rogatchi, an accomplished artist herself, who knows more about Mehta, and the orchestra, and can trace her lineage back to Gustav Mahler.
Mehta’s baton has been passed along to 30-year-old Lahav Shani. This means, we are assured, that the orchestra remains in good hands. We wish him Mehta’s good fortune.
Sometimes the perfect man arrives at the perfect moment, and so it was when Mehta joined the ensemble when Israel, only a few decades after the Holocaust, and only a few years after the Six Day War, was struggling to find a measure of respite through classical music. Mehta presented a solid fixture. Those were emotional times.
Everything about Israel is emotional.
At the outbreak of the Six Day War, Mehta, who was then conducting elsewhere, rushed to Israel for concerts of solidarity.
Some in the orchestra were Holocaust survivors, and now – this is important—now, since 1948, they were performing as members of the ISRAEL Philharmonic.
Before that, it was the Palestine Orchestra. It was formed as such in 1936. Arturo Toscanini was first to conduct. “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet,” some might say in tribute to Zubin Mehta.
Those Palestinians, there at the start, were Jews, Jewish musicians, proof, if you needed it, that that’s what Jews were called then and there, Palestinians – and not the Arabs.
At a concert in Berlin, 1971, on impulse, Mehta led the orchestra to Hatikvah, performed, throughout the ensemble, with tears. The audience also wept.
Mehta calls that his most memorable moment.
As noted, everything about Israel is emotional, and so it is with the orchestra, which puts ineffable feelings into music.
A trace through Mehta’s 50-year career offers a timeline of Israel’s history throughout those bitter-sweet years.
Through good times and bad, through laughter and tears, through war and peace, Mehta was there, baton firmly in hand.
Yes, he will be missed.
New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.
He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal.” His Holocaust to Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah” has been honored from page to screen at CANNES. His Inside Journalism thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” is being prepared for the movies. Contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com