The Vienna Philharmonic’s longest serving conductor

The Vienna Philharmonic’s longest serving conductor


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2021

The Vienna Philharmonic has just issued a new book on its 55-year relationship with Herbert von Karajan, dating from his debut in 1934 to his death in 1989.

In the opening paragraph it mentions that one living conductor overtook Karajan’s long-service record in 2016.

Any idea who?

UPDATE: It’s…. Zubin Mehta.


  • Ari Bocian says:

    Zubin Mehta?

  • twirl says:

    Both Mehta and Barenboim, I think.

  • JamesH says:

    As Zubin Mehta first conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in 1961, my guess is that he is the one who overtook Von Karajan’s record.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    Zubin? or Barenboim. They met eachother with Abbado when they were teenagers or young adults.

  • Tamino says:

    Daniel Barenboim? Came first to Vienna to play as a very young pianist.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      I’m not sure, I think it was more the double bass. he talks about it in his autobiography and his father was a very good violinist. But I guess Zubin can play the piano like all the opera conductors.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      Sorry I was talking about Zubin not Daniel of course

  • Evan Tucker says:

    It has to be Mehta.

  • Zenaida says:

    Living composer … in 2016 … Zubin Mehta?

  • CRWang says:

    Zubin Mehta?

  • Stephen CuUnjieng says:

    Zubin Mehta

  • Harold Clarkson says:

    I believe its Zubin Mehta.. am I right?

  • Gustavo says:

    Zube or Pretre?

  • David Derrick says:

    Temirkanov in St Petersburg?

  • Gustavo says:

    Muti is on the fast lane.

    • justin says:

      How fast does the fast lane have to be?

      Let’s do the math: Meha surpassed Karajan in 2016, Muti is celebrating his 50 years of collaboration with Vienna in 2021, Muti would have to outlive Mehta by 12 years and still conducting, so for example, if Mehta were to die this year, Muti would have to still be conducting at 2033 at the age of 92.

  • Eyal says:

    Zubin. And Barenboim must be very close too.

  • justin says:

    1 year of Karajan is worth 5 years of Mehta.

    Quick: name one concert or recording of Mehta and Vienna that comes to mind.


    I’ll reformulate that: 1 Karajan year = 10 Mehta years.

  • Gustavo says:

    But the question is: what does VPO want to prove with this publication in 2021?

    That joining the NSDAP twice (spring 1933) and conducting Tannhäuser for Hitler’s birthday can be forgotten or forgiven?

  • Nick Schleppend says:

    Karl Böhm, surely?

  • Gustavo says:


    • mary says:

      Can’t be Boulez because he died Jan 5, 2016, and he did not conduct Vienna in the first 5 days of the new year, so if he had broken Karajan’s record, he would’ve already done it in 2015.

      Signed, Mary, the keeper of death records of all conductors

  • andrew.sawtruss says:

    Norman: and the answer is? Bet it’s Mehta. But length of engagement does not necessarily equal quality of results. He truly found his level conducting the Three Tenors gigs, which hardly required probing musical or technical prowess, IMHO.

  • Sly says:

    Zubin I think

  • Maiko says:

    Had to have been Sir Adrian Boult..

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Daniel Barenboim: he first appeared with the VPO as a piano soloist in 1965, as conductor in 1989.