Zubin: The one great orchestra I never conducted

Zubin: The one great orchestra I never conducted


norman lebrecht

January 25, 2021

The conductor, 84, says Lorin Maazel once invited him to conduct his orchestra but he never got around to it.

Which orchestra?

And is it too late to catch up?

Read here.


  • In his autobiography I read he said that like Chailly he’s not used to be a guest conductor everywhere. I was surprise also to read that he conducted only in 2005 the RCO for the first time.

  • Colin says:

    Zubin is 84. He turns 85 on April 29.

  • Larry says:

    Nice to learn that he appreciates Ellington and Armstrong.

  • Mark Cogley says:

    The interviewer knows nothing about classical music. You know it when they want to talk about their pop groups and musicians. Mehta is gracious and quite used to this.

  • Gustavo says:

    Is the Cleveland really a möst-have?

    • FrankUSA says:

      Mehta was asked a direct question and gave a direct question. Why question it even though I do notice your spelling of the word”most” which may be a reference to the present musical director of The Cleveland Orchestra. The spelling connection may be humorous(a play on spelling) or it might mean something more. But I do congratulate you on your perceptiveness and seeing that spelling connection.

  • Stephen Owades says:

    According to the Boston Symphony’s performance archives (https://archives.bso.org/), Zubin Mehta has never conducted the Boston Symphony either. He led the student orchestra at Tanglewood when he was a conducting fellow in 1958, and he led both the New York Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic at Tanglewood and in Symphony Hall, but never the BSO itself.

  • MacroV says:

    There’s still time. I’m sure they could have a nice love-fest program. Zubin can give a nice interview where says how delighted he is finally to conduct the great Cleveland Orchestra, and one of their players can say how happy they are to have him. Everybody wins.

    It may be changing, but U.S. orchestras – at least the Big 5+ – often seemed to have exclusivity agreements with their music directors that kept them from guesting with other U.S. orchestras. Solti conducted in Cleveland – for the first and only time – a couple months before he died, a few years after he left the CSO.

  • sam says:

    I don’t think finese (ie, restraint, balance, transparency of sound) is part of Mehta’s skill set, leading the Cleveland Orchestra requires a fine brush not the paint roller Mehta yields.

    • Mark Sebastian Jordan says:

      Yes, but Ashkenazy was no master of finesse and they always loved playing with him. I think they enjoy the change of having less rigorous guest conductors.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Mehta’s choice of the Mahler 2 for his 50-year celebration with the Israel Philharmonic was a good one – Mehta is the master of that score.
    I am very surprised that he has not yet conducted the Cleveland Orch. or (as another commenter notes) the Boston Sym. Perhaps when The Plague eventually passes he will get his chance.
    Long life and good health, Zubin! Stay safe….

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I’m sorry Mehta never performed or recorded a work that I think he was born to conduct: Mahler 8 – especially with the connections he had with so many great vocalists. I don’t consider his Israel Phil. recording of Mahler 7 to be ‘reference’ material at all, but it is interesting.

  • Like Maazel vastly overated,but he does like cricket.

    • ian parkes says:

      totally agree with you peter overated and too autobiografical

    • SHM says:

      Did you work with Maazel? He was a fabulous conductor and musician. The greatest technique I have ever seen, and I’ve seen nearly all of them. And very exciting and profound performances of works like Bruckner 8 and the he Eroica. He did a wonderful Walküre at the Met as well. I disagree vehemently that he was overrated.

      • JussiB says:

        I saw Maazel conduct the Vienna Phil in Orange County, Calif a few months before he died (Mahler 4th). He looked very frail but the reading was lovely.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        I agree, SHM!
        I heard Maazel conduct The Cleveland Orch. on tour in Berkeley, CA, in, I would say, the mid-70s.
        The program was the Eroica and the complete Firebird ballet.
        The performances were simply stunning, and the audience ovations afterwards were overwhelming and fully deserved (for once).

  • Barry says:

    I’m kind of surprised that he didn’t conduct in Cleveland when he was young. He guest conducted a lot in Philadelphia and obviously New York. I would have thought he’d have hit all of the old Big Five in that period.

  • George says:

    Zubin Mehta is currently conducting all three Munich orchestras in just one week – without an audience and all those rehearsals for just one concert each. I highly admire his determination and love for making music, especially since he is a high risk patient. His Vier letzte Lieder and Schubert Symphony tonight were wonderful!

  • JussiB says:

    Many people overlook the fine orchestras in between America’s coasts: Minnesota, Cleveland, Chicago.

  • Paul says:

    What is the One orchestra he would liked to have conducted?
    Some other living conductors that have not conducted the Cleveland Orchestra:

    • Álvaro Cabezas García says:

      Ozawa dirigió a la Cleveland en 1969 con un programa compuesto por November (Takemitsu), suite de Romeo y Julieta (Prokofiev) y la 5 sinfonía de Nielsen.

    • Barry says:

      Dudamel was supposed to make his Philadelphia debut this month.

  • Tom Chambers says:

    I could be mistaken and I have no evidence, but I thought Muti conducted the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom sometime in the early 1970s.

    • Tom Chambers says:

      Paul may be right. Muti was scheduled to make his C-O debut in July 1973 but fell ill and cancelled a few days in advance. I don’t know about afterwards. .