Mumbai boy Zubin Mehta hands on Israel Philharmonic baton to 30-year-old music prodigy

It’s been 25 years, but maestro Zubin Mehta is all set to pass on the baton as the conduct of the Israel Philharmonic. Born in a Parsi family in Mumbai in 1936, his father was as self-taught violinist who founded the Bombay Symphony Orchestra.

The 83-year-old is passing on the baton to a fast-rising Israeli maestro who’s 53 years younger. He capped off thousands of performances as music director in a series of concerts in Tel Aviv this week and will make way for Lahav Shani.

For over a decade, he has enthralled audiences across Europe, both as a pianist and conductor. His successor Shani began piano studies in Tel Aviv and later trained for orchestral conducting at Berlin’s Academy of Music Hanns Eisler.

Shani told Reuters: “I (listened) to the orchestra with the maestro (Mehta) many times as a child. When I was a student, I learned from the musicians in the orchestra. They were my teachers for chamber music (and) double bass.”

Shani first performed with the 100-member orchestra when he was 18. Mehta lives a rich legacy which also saw him lead orchestras of New York, Los Angeles, Munich and Florence. Mehta recalled how the show went on during times of conflict as well, with audiences sitting through breaks of rocket sirens. He said: “Twenty minutes later, we continue. Audience never left. In times of crisis, the audience never stays home.”

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