Just in: Berlin Phil make Zubin Mehta an honorary member

Just in: Berlin Phil make Zubin Mehta an honorary member


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2019

Message received:

As an expression of their gratitude for a long association, the Berliner Philharmoniker welcomed Zubin Mehta as an honorary member of the orchestra today.

Zubin Mehta conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker for the first time in September 1961 in the concert hall of the College of the Arts (today the University of the Arts). Since then, he and the orchestra have presented 172 concerts with 73 programmes in Berlin and on several concert tours, including this week’s concerts with works by Edgard Varèse, Peter Eötvös and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

In his address, orchestra board member Knut Weber declared: “Your history with the Berliner Philharmoniker is exemplary. No conductor has conducted our orchestra over a longer period of time; hardly any other guest conductor has led the Berliner Philharmoniker more often. Although guest conductor does not go far enough. Your relationship with our orchestra can be described in many ways, but no longer as ‘guest’. Much more as friend, example, artistic advisor, audience favourite and musical authority.”

In addition to Zubin Mehta, the following conductors have been named honorary members of the Berliner Philharmoniker: (in chronological order) Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Seiji
Ozawa and Mariss Jansons.



  • MacroV says:

    Good for him. Zubin gets a lot of grief from the denizens of SD, but someone who has regularly been invited to Berlin and Vienna for over 50 years – must have something to offer.

    • Affable, reliable, calm, efficient, and a stickler for good intonation.

    • anon says:

      “must have something to offer”

      But what is it? That’s the big mystery.

      He is masterful in giving clear beats and entrance cues, second only to Maazel in that department. But in terms of depth of interpretation… it’s all surface.

      And he does big spectacles well (see 3 tenors).

      • Norman Krieger says:

        Having had the privilege of playing with Zubin I can say that he is perhaps one of the greatest Accompanist -collaborators one could ever dream of making music with. He can follow a fly! He has that 6th sense of knowing what a soloist will do before they do it. In addition I shall never forget his Beethoven Eroica about 10 years ago in LA.
        One of the most elect interpretations ever!

        A remarkable life and person!

  • barry guerrero says:

    Orchestras like him, as he’s certainly friendly and efficient. That said, I can’t think of one Berlin recording he’s made that I would call memorable. Maybe somebody could enlighten me. I gravitate to the L.A. Phil. recordings he made at UCLA’s Royce Hall, as well as his earlier Vienna ones. He also recorded a terrific “Concerto for Orchestra” (Bartok) with the Israel Phil. that was recorded in London’s Kingsway Hall. Needless to say, the IPO sounded better than they usually do in Tel Aviv’s dry sounding Mann Auditorium.

    • Rgiarola says:

      What about Bartok Concerto For Orchestra Recorded at Philharmonie by Sony (CBS at that time) in 1988, with Berlin PO conducted by him?

      • barry guerrero says:

        I thought it was OK, but nothing special. I did think of a really good BPO one – well, to me, anyway: “Don Quixote” (R. Strauss) and the Dvorak cello concerto with Mischa Maisky on cello.

  • Dorothy Buffum says:

    Nice guy. Treats orchestra really nice. Treads nicely with BPO and VPO musicians, not afraid of challenging them. A true gentleman. But what do we get? A boring recording legacy and lackluster performances. All flash and no substance, but a very nice man.

  • Patrick says:

    Nielsen symphony #4 with LA Phil…..excellent!

  • Spenser says:

    Congratulations, Maestro!

  • Uzi Shalev says:

    Bravo Zubin!!!

  • Archie_V says:

    Mehta for me embodies all the implications of the expression ‘a safe pair of hands’. You can be confident that the score will be largely respected, the orchestra will be together and in tune, and the loud bits will be very loud and the quiet bits very quiet (no small achievement in these times of default mf-ism). The flipside of that is that is that you’ll get few or no pleasant surprises from him either. All is well, but all is exactly as expected.

    • Novagerio says:

      You, the “Society of anonymous Armchair-conductors” are funny indeed;
      To only address Maestro Zubin Mehta as “Mister Safe Pair of Hands” is utterly ridiculous.
      Yes, he started his career at a very tender age, just like the “Dude”. But two things: He literally build the LA Phil between 1962-78, he gave them a stellar contract on Decca/London (those things were important for an orchestra’s profile back then) and he left a mighty instrument into the hands of his successor Carlo Maria Giulini, at times where the LA Phil literally had surpassed the NY Phil in excellence.
      He was succesful due to his exotic charisma, just like his colleague Seiji Ozawa, but his musical taste and his overall education was viennese.
      In New York he was literally killed by the NY Times and its followers.
      Oh, and the other thing: Let’s see if the “Dude” will last as long as long as Maestro Mehta’s 61 years with the profession! I, for one, wish him luck. And mostly I’ll wish Maestro Mehta all good health!

      Incidently, check his recordings with the LA Phil, especially the sensational Richard Strauss Tone Poems, and not least, the equally sensational Franz Schmidt 4th Symphony he recorded with the Vienna Phil (!)

      • Dorothy Buffum says:

        And I guess Novagerio is your real name? He didn’t “built” the LA Phil. I guess you have never heard of Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter (Columbia Symphony Orchestra, where many of the LA Phil musicians came from).

        Ray Still, the great oboist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has seen em’ all. He said this about Mehta:

        “Mehta of course is a kind of theatrical conductor. He looks wonderful! I would class him with Bernstein who is the modern television “face” conductor, the one whose face the cameras love to focus on. A recent telecast showed impressive close-ups of Mehta “feeling” the music, an ecstatic, almost orgasmic look on his face. The music coming out of his orchestra was of secondary importance and not very good. If you focus on (Fritz) Reiner’s face you saw practically nothing—just the eyes shifting once in awhile and almost no movement of the baton. But, my God, what was happening in the music! Incredible.”
        Chicago Interview, Sept. 1986

        If it weren’t for Zubin Mehta, the LAP would have gotten Georg Solti. Alas, no Solti because a department store heiress was so in love with Flashy Zubin.

        Martin Bernheimer, an LA times music critic with excellent taste didn’t like Zubin. The critics in NY didn’t like Zubin. His tenures with the LAP, NY Phil, and Isreal PO were mediocre and lasted too long.

        I’m sorry but I listen with my ears. I leave the appreciation of “exotic charisma”–whatever that means–to you, but it’s not a standard to judge conductors.

        • Novagerio says:

          Let’s say that I do agree and disagree with you mr. Buffum. Yes, the LA Phil was a good “provincial” orchestra under the Klemperer Years, and Walter’s Columbia Symphony was as everybody knows formed by musicians from the LA Phil. Klemperer and Walter were the masters of their own time, as Mehta and Ozawa were the dittos of their own time. Nothing reproachable about that.

  • Jasper says:

    On the NY Phil website (https://nyphil.org/about-us/meet/musicians-of-the-orchestra), the following are listed as honorary members of the NY Philharmonic Society: Emanuel Ax, Pierre Boulez, Stanley Drucker, and Zubin Mehta.

    On that same website, Leonard Bernstein is listed as Laureate Conductor, and Kurt Masur is listed as Music Director Emeritus.

    No such recognition for either Lorin Maazel or Alan Gilbert, whose tenures more-or-less equaled that of Masur. What might be the cause for these omissions?


  • Roberto says:

    Wonderful conductor. I enjoy his Mahler #2 his Puccini recordings. People are envious because of his great success.