Mehta receives a star

Yesterday was an exciting day in the classical world of music. Zubin Mehta was given a star on the Walk of Fame and conducted the Israel Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. I was privileged enough to attend the concert in the evening.

For those of you that don’t know who Zubin Mehta is, he is an Indian conductor of Western Music. He was born in Mumbai, India in 1936. Yes, you read that correctly. 1936. As of this year, he has been conducting for 50 years and will be celebrating his 75th birthday in April. There are few conductors that are as famous as he is. I have always wanted to watch him, and last night did not disappoint.

When I drove up to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, I was met with quite a shock. There were many protesters (peaceful at least) outside the venue. They were protesting because it was the Israel Philharmonic and they do not wish to support anything out of Israel. Now, I can understand politics and why someone would or would not support a government, but to protest a classical concert? It boggled my mind.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Once I arrived inside, I found out that my seats were behind the orchestra. The Walt Disney Concert Hall, if you have not had the pleasure of attending, is a theater in the round, of sorts. The music sounds the same from all different angles, just the visual changes. In the picture I’ve included, I sat at the very top right of the image. To watch Mehta’s expressive face and gestures was something I will not forget.

On the bill was Haydn’s 96th Symphony, “The Miracle”, as well as Mahler’s 5th Symphony. They began the concert by conducting the National Anthem, and then was followed by the Israel National Anthem. After this was finished, the orchestra shrunk in size to accommodate the proper arrangement for the Haydn work. I will be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Haydn, but this work is one of his later symphonies and is quite remarkable. I have never heard Mahler’s 5th Symphony live before. I was completely blown away. The entire work is over an hour in length and requires quite a lot of endurance from all members of the orchestra. Even if you have not heard Mahler’s work before, you can hear where film composers of the 20th century drew inspiration from it. The Israel Philharmonic is to be commended on how well they performed it. 70 minutes is an awfully long time to play. When the baton dropped on the last beat, almost the entire audience was on their feet, shouting their joy at the conclusion, myself included.

It never fails to amaze me at the vitality a conductor must have when in front of an orchestra. My degree is in Music Education, so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about music. Watching a man who has been conducting for over 50 years, has been conducting this particular orchestra for that length of time as well, and to see a man almost 75 years old do all of this was an experience I will never forget. If you ever get the chance to see him conduct, do it. You won’t be disappointed.