Maestro Zubin Mehta leads the Australia World Orchestra in an exhilarating performance

By Neeru Saluja

The maestro finally arrived at the Sydney Opera House. He conducted. And then conquered all of us music lovers.

After conducting the Australian World Orchestra (AWO) in 2013 and 2015, the legendary maestro Zubin Mehta made his final comeback at Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on 2 September.

Zubin Mehta is recognised as one of the world’s greatest Strauss interpreters. For this concert, he conducted the AWO in performances of three of the grand-scale symphonic works by Richard Strauss – Don Juan, Till Eulenspiegels Lustige Streiche and Ein Heldenleben.

With his unwavering command, it was a musical treat to witness an Indian star conductor performing with Australian musicians from 55 orchestras around the world. Dressed in white tie and tails, he led the stage with great distinction and elegance. Though the octogenarian cautiously walked towards the podium, his command over the compositions proved he still is the world’s leading conductor.

As he conducted while seated, his precise gestures displayed the strength of his artistry earning the affection and respect from the musicians and the audience. Mehta’s conducting was focussed and effortless, creating an impressive soundscape.

Born and raised in Mumbai, Zubin Mehta has been at the top of his profession since 60 years. He was head of some of some of the world’s greatest orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and the Bavarian State Opera. In his autobiography, he reminisced about listening to Strauss as a child in India on a gramophone belonging to his father Mehli, a self-taught violinist who founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra. In his formative years in Vienna, Mehta learnt conducting from Strauss’s friend, Hans Swarowsky.

The concert ended in a surprise celebration as the legendary conductor Maestro Zubin Mehta was awarded an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia (AC), in recognition of his eminent service to the Australia-India bilateral relationship and humanity-at-large, particularly in the fields of classical music and philanthropy.

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