Arts & Entertainment
Mukherjee confers Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony on Zubin Mehta
New Delhi, September 6, 2013
President Pranab Mukherjee conferred the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony to well-known music conductor Zubin Mehta at a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.
Mehta is the second recipient of the award instituted by the Government of India during the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of renowned poet, writer and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
The first Tagore Award was conferred on famed sitarist Ravi Shankar in 2012.
Union Minister for Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, former Governor of West Bengal Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Secretary, Culture, Ravindra Singh and several dignitaries and prominent citizens were present at the ceremony.
The award carries an amount of Rs 1 crore, a citation in a scroll, a plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft/handloom item.
A high-level jury under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and comprising the Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Mr Gandhi, after detailed discussions on July 4, had unanimously decided to select Mr Mehta to be the second recipient of the Tagore Award, 2013 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to cultural harmony.
Following is the citation for Mr Mehta:
“In our divided world, there are few who rise above nation yet stay rooted to home, remain proof against prejudice and sensitive to suffering, and bring joy to people through their lifelong work. One such individual is Zubin Mehta,
His is a story of singular achievement. Since the time he left India almost sixty years ago to study music in Europe, success, it would seem, has chosen him for its own. Achieving distinction even as a student at Vienna, he had by the age of twenty-five conducted three of the best-known symphony orchestras in the world: the Vienna, Berlin, and Israel Philharmonic. A rapid succession of appointments then followed, as Music Director with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1961–67), the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra (1962–78), and the New York Philharmonic (1978–91). Overlapping with responsibilities in the latter two positions, he was appointed Music Adviser of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (1969), then its Music Director (1977), and was finally titled its Music Director for Life (1981). Such an honour to a foreign national is unique in the annals of music.
Zubin Mehta’s prodigious work has not been confined to orchestral music. Debuting as opera conductor in Montreal (1963), he has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the opera houses of Chicago and Florence. He was the conductor of the historic production of Puccini’s Tosca in Rome (1992), enacted in the specific settings and time mentioned in the score of the opera. He has conducted at the prestigious Salzburg Festival, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia among other venues. He was Music Director of the Bavarian Opera (1998–2006), and is President of the annual Festival del Mediterrani in Valencia (2006–). No other Indian has achieved such distinction in the world of opera.
Zubin Mehta would have been just as good a musician, but a lesser man, had he not engaged with humanitarian issues around the world. This he has done not by grand discourse, but by doing what he knows best –– making music. To raise funds for war victims and in remembrance of those who perished in the Yugoslav wars, he played the Mozart Requiem at the ruins of Sarajevo’s National Library with the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra and Choir (1994). In a concert rich with symbolic meaning, he performed Mahler’s Resurrection symphony (No. 2) at a site close to the Buchenwald concentration camp of wartime Germany, with the Bavarian State Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra playing together under his baton (1999). A year after the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he conducted the Bavarian State Orchestra in a memorial concert in Chennai (2005). In Israel, he gives free concerts in Arab-inhabited towns and leads the Mifneh (‘Change’) programme teaching Western classical music to young Arab Israelis.
In Tel Aviv, at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music, and in his native Mumbai under the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation, named after his father, Zubin Mehta is closely involved in nurturing young talent in western classical music. He is a bold experimenter at the frontiers of his art, recording with Ravi Shankar the latter’s Sitar Concerto No. 2 played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, on the one hand, and working with the Chinese film director Zhang Yimou on the stupendous production of Puccini’s opera Turandot (1997–98), on the other. His zest for music is boundless.
In Zubin Mehta’s universal spirit we find an affirmation of Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of a world that “has not been broken up into fragments or by narrow domestic walls”. In an impassioned quest of his ideal, he has traversed vast stretches of imagination, glimpsed the beauty that may be ours in life, and sought to capture here what might be snatched from the stars. In so doing, he has lost distinction of the shadow lines that divide man from man, and envisioned anew “that heaven of freedom” where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
As we confer upon Zubin Mehta the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony for the year 2013, we salute this distant-dwelling son of India.”