In 1935 a violinist named Mehli Mehta founds the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. The following year, his first son Zubin is born, and even before Zubin and his brother Zarin have learned to speak, they are listening to Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms.

So it comes as no surprise that the 18-year-old decides to make the journey to Austria in 1954 to pursue music studies. As an Indian, he is a sensation in post-war Vienna; though he never experiences discrimination himself, he is shocked by the anti-Semitism that is still present there.
Mehta is and will always be a musician without boundaries, a cosmopolitan whose talent encompasses all areas of music, commanding an enormous repertoire ranging from the Classical period to the present.
He celebrated his eightieth birthday in April 2016, and now commutes between California, Israel, and Tuscany, though he still feels his roots in India and regards Vienna as his spiritual home.
The maestro speaks quite openly about his occasional failures as a young conductor, and when asked about how he finally attained artistic maturity, he answers with the most beautiful declaration of love we can imagine: it was his second wife Nancy who helped him find the necessary calm and gave his life a direction.

© Ulla Pilz, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • 1952 first conducting engagement (Bombay Symphony Orchestra) at the age of 16

  • 1958 winner of the Liverpool International Conducting Competition, where he obtains his first post as assistant conductor

  • 1960 debuts with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal

  • 1962-1978 principal conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

  • 1977 to present principal conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

  • 1978-1991 principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic

  • 1998-2006 general music director of the Bayerische Staatsoper

  • Between 1990 and 2015, Mehta conducts the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert five times.

  • Most important opera houses: Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden, Milan’s La Scala, and many others

  • Mehta is the winner of the Nikisch Ring, Japanese Praemium Imperiale, Tagore Awards for Cultural Harmony, countless medals, honorary citizenships and memberships, and a star on the Hollywood Boulevard

  • Together with his brother, Zubin Mehta directs the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation in Mumbai, dedicated to the musical training of talented children

Did you know?

  • Mehta has been an avid cricket fan since his childhood

  • He also sees conducting as a humanistic act, aligning himself “with the values and dignity of the individual” while on the podium

  • In the midst of the Hungarian crisis in 1956, Mehta conducts a self-assembled student orchestra in the dining room of a refugee camp near Vienna

  • Stage fright is unknown to him, unless there have been too few rehearsals; but even then, he doesn’t permit the orchestra to notice his own uncertainty

  • Though the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conferred on him the honorary title of Music Director for Life, every couple of years he asks the musicians, “Have you had enough of me?”

  • As a self-declared “adopted Viennese,” Mehta speaks the Viennese dialect better than High German

  • The globetrotter says that he has no need of a vacation. His vacation is the Adagio of Bruckner’s Eighth, for example.