When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Zubin Mehta: I rush to brush my teeth as soon as I wake up. And after that I rush to get the newspaper … I love reading my newspapers: The London Times, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times – then I get into my car and go to rehearsal.
TG: What is your secret life hack?
ZM: My music — my enthusiasm for music — for life.
TG: Name a book that changed my life?
ZM: There isn’t one. I read a lot of history, which is interesting but doesn’t really change my life. A recent book I’ve enjoyed is The World Of Yesterday, the last book by Austrian author, Stefan Zweig in 1942, which he wrote in Brazil, before he killed himself. It is about his memories of Vienna.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
ZM: No Absolutely not. NEVER! I don’t even text or send SMS or EMS! I only use it telephone people. I am not involved with social media at all, so I don’t know the pros and cons of it.
TG: How do you deal with email?
ZM: I just don’t do it at all! I have a wonderful secretary in Munich who does it all for me.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
ZM: I have some Indian food and watch cricket. Also, I like to play backgammon with my wife, which we do on a daily basis.
TG: When was the last time you think you failed and how did you deal with it?
ZM: I have not failed in my recent life musically, although people may like my musical interpretations or not — and might agree or disagree with them. But sometimes I fail in my family, with my children, my grandchildren. I feel I do not do enough. That happens for time to time, because for me, with my work, time goes by so quickly that I realize I haven’t spoken to someone in six months. It shouldn’t be an excuse but it happens. I try my best; I am not always successful.
TG: Can you share a quote that you love that gives you strength or peace?
ZM: Not a quote but my philosophy comes from my religion – Zoroastrianism [known in India as Parsis]. The philosophy is all about good thoughts, good words and doing good deeds. That is the principle I base my life on.
Zubin Mehta was born in 1936 in Bombay and received his first musical education under his father’s Mehli Mehta’s guidance who was the founder of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. He won the Liverpool International Conducting Competition in 1958 and was also a prize-winner of the summer academy at Tanglewood. By 1961 he had already conducted the Vienna, Berlin and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras and has recently celebrated 50 years of musical collaboration with all three ensembles.
Zubin Mehta was Music Director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra from 1961 to 1967 and also assumed the Music Directorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1962, a post he retained until 1978.
In 1969 he was appointed Music Adviser to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and was made Music Director of that orchestra in 1977. In 1981 the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra awarded him the title of Music Director for life. Zubin Mehtawill end his tenure with the IPO 50 years after his debut in October 2019.
In 1978 he took over the post as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic commencing a tenure lasting 13 years, the longest in the orchestra’s history. From 1985 to 2017 he has been chief conductor of the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence.
Zubin Mehta made his debut as an opera conductor withTosca in Montreal in 1963. Since then he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, La Scala Milano, and the opera houses of Chicago and Florence as well as at the Salzburg Festival.
Zubin Mehta’s list of awards and honours is extensive and includes the “Nikisch-Ring” bequeathed to him by Karl Böhm. He is an honorary citizen of both Florence and Tel Aviv and was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera in 1997, of the Bavarian State Opera in 2006 and of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Wien in 2007. The title of “Honorary Conductor” was bestowed to him by the following orchestras: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (2001), Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (2004), Los Angeles Philharmonic (2006).
In March 2011 Zubin Mehta received a special distinction, in getting a star on the Hollywood Boulevard. The Indian Government honoured him in September 2013 with the “Tagore Award for cultural harmony” which a year earlier was awarded to Ravi Shankar.
Zubin Mehta continues to support the discovery and furtherance of musical talents all over the world. Together with his brother Zarin he is a co-chairman of the Mehli MehtaMusic Foundation in Bombay where more than 200 children are educated in Western Classical Music. The Buchmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv develops young talent in Israel and is closely related to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as is a new project of teaching young Arab Israelis in the cities of Shwaram and Nazareth with local teachers and members of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Read more here!
Listen to an exclusive interview with journalist Elaine Lipworth and Zubin Mehta