Zubin Mehta yields baton to a capable friend

Zubin Mehta yields baton to a capable friend


norman lebrecht

April 16, 2018

You may be surprised.


  • Max Grimm says:

    Danny Kaye also does a rather good impression of Zubin Mehta conducting (from time index 19:39 onward)…

  • James says:

    All done with pure talent – Danny Kaye could not read music.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      And many ordinary mortals can read music but can’t pull this off – (from 1:30 on):

      The whole show is very funny and classy. I first watched it not long after it came out (1981) and am still equally amused and impressed.

      • Sue says:

        Carlos Kleiber admired Danny Kaye’s conducting too. He said it demonstrated how really easy it was to be a ‘stick waver’!! Typical gorgeous Carlos! (We miss you maestro!)

        • Petros Linardos says:

          Also typical snarky Carlos. Maybe it’s easy to be an effective stick waver if you have Danny Kaye’s sense of rhythm.

  • Rgiarola says:

    Long time ago. Dicterow still very young.

  • That concert took place years ago in the PBS series Live from Lincoln Center during the period of Zubin Mehta’s tenure as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. I was honored to have been chosen as Commentator for all Live From Lincoln Center telecasts from the very first one (in January, 1976) until I retired 30 years later due to voice problems.

    And it’s no joke. Danny Kaye was an intuitive, natural musician. Had he studied and devoted his life to music, he well might have become a first rate and IMPORTANT conductor……..

  • MacroV says:

    I believe it has been mentioned a number of times on this site that Danny Kaye was regarded by many fine musicians as a great conductor, at least for someone who wasn’t trained for it, and he did a lot of benefit concerts with orchestras, similar to this one. And just watch this: clearly he was an outstanding musician, even if he couldn’t read a score:


    • Petros Linardos says:

      Thank you very much for posting this. I can’t stop smiling and am out of words.

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      He has great body language: better than that of a lot of professional conductors.

    • Stephen says:

      Someone who couldn’t read a score – which is much more difficult for a conductor than for a pianist – can’t seriously be considered a great conductor. Danny Kay was a great comedian, which is in itself a considerable achievement.

      • Bruce says:

        “Danny Kaye was regarded by many fine musicians as a great conductor, at least for someone who wasn’t trained for it…”

  • Richard says:

    No one who was a regular concertgoer in the 1960s or 1970s would be surprised by this. Danny Kaye regularly conducted fundraisers for major orchestras, and they would sell out. The man may have not had score-reading facility, but he certainly knew a lot about music. And he knew how to connect with the musicians.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Um…if you choose the music carefully, then the piece can mostly be led by the front of the violin desk, without needing much input from the conductor.

  • Bruce says:

    I’ve seen these many times and am glad to see the word about the wonderfulness of Danny Kaye being spread again.

  • Boy From Brooklyn says:

    As someone who played under Zubin Mehta for a number of years, Danny Kaye is by far a better musician and conductor.

  • Jack says:

    Danny Kay is a sort of musical Zubin Mehta.

  • MacroV says:

    Harry Ellis Dickson, in his classic memoir “Gentlemen, More Dolce Please,” has a good account of how he got Danny Kaye to conduct the BSO and worked with him on his conducting. A lot of other good anecdotes about people you’ll know. https://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-More-Dolce-Please-Irreverent/dp/B000HZ0X0U/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1523926054&sr=8-2&keywords=gentlemen%2C+more+dolce+please

  • Ben G. says:

    Back in 1976 with the Yale Philharmonia, Danny Kaye worked 3 days with us in one of his benefit concerts. I have never played under a better conductor. He had no idea of how to read music, and yet had the most powerful and unequalled eye contact I have ever seen from anyone up to this day. He was a born performer in anything he desired to do.

  • Adam Stern says:

    I think this scene from “Wonder Man”, wherein Kaye has to fake his way through an opera to simultaneously avoid two murderous thugs and “sing” evidence to the District Attorney, is one of his best performances poking delicious fun at classical music:


  • Ben G. says:

    I’m surprised that no one has posted this little gem yet:


  • Barry Guerrero says:

    A very famous conductor – I believe it was Mitropolous, but not sure – said backstage that if Danny Kaye took up conducting seriously, he could put them ALL out of business.