Five concerts, four conductors at different stages of their relationship w/ the LA Phil (part 4 of 4): Zubin Mehta, 50 years later
December 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Zubin Mehta: the man, the myth, the legend.
While I’ve had a chance to see the other three conductors profiled in this series fairly early in their relationship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I was not around to see any of Mr. Mehta’s concerts as Music Director, let alone the ones early in his career. I only know of his reputation, mostly via the two local critics of note who followed him the longest — Martin Bernheimer and Alan Rich. They did not often see eye to eye, but when it came to Mr. Mehta’s conducting, they both seemed to have more misgivings than they had praise. Beyond them, the stories were not that different: dashing, charismatic and adventurous on one hand; slick, perhaps even shallow, interpretations on the other.
My first live experience with Mr. Mehta leading the LA Phil (not counting the children’s concerts I attended as a grade schooler) was in a 1994 all-Mozart concert which featured the 32nd and 41st Symphonies and the Davidde Penitente. I was impressed with neither his music making nor his demeanor.
Many years later, I read a scathing review that Mr. Rich wrote about a Vienna Philharmonic concert here in L.A. that Mr. Mehta conducted, and the late, great music critic’s words brought me back to that ’94 all-Mozart concert with this observation:
“Now he fixes the world with an angry glare, and oozes his way toward the podium as if he’d just peed in his pants, bearing on his stopped shoulders the remnants of a glory that might have been, but which has been too ofen wrongly steered.” (Alan Rich, “Mehta-phobia,” So I’ve Heard: March 12, 2009)
In those pre- All is Yar days, I responded on Mr. Rich’s blog with the following comment of my own: