Will drop everything else to play in Kashmir: Zubin Mehta

NEW DELHI: For music maestro 11, who has conducted symphony orchestras in strife-torn areas across the world, playing in Jammu and Kashmir remains a cherished dream that remains unfulfilled yet.

“I wish one day I could play in Kashmir. I will cancel every appointment to come and do that,” said Mehta who was here to receive the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit, from the German ambassador, Michael Steiner here last evening.

The Mumbai-born symphony music director who visits the county frequently with orchestra troupes has for long been expressing his desire to play in the Kashmir region.

The German ambassador said he would attempt to make “this dream of Zubin Mehta a reality.”

“I would also like to talk to the Indian government. Maybe we can make this dream of Zubin Mehta a reality to have a concert in Jammu Kashmir. I will try my best and of course the Indian government has to agree,” said the ambassador who has just assumed office in the country.

Although Zubin Mehta has no personal connect with Jammu and Kashmir, he had traveled to the state earlier in the 1970s.

“We visited Kashmir twice first in 1973 and then again in 1974 with our children. We fell in love with the country and my wife and I took our children to Amarnath on the yatra so we know Kashmir quite well,” said the 76-year-old conductor who was accompanied by his wife, yesteryear Hollywood actress Nancy Kovak for the award ceremony.

The couple made use of short gap time in Mehta’s packed calendar for a visit to Hyderabad.
The Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit which was awarded to Zubin Mehta is one of the highest awards given by the German president to German or foreign nationals “who in their specific field of work have shown humanitarian approach, affection for people and shown an inclination of working in the interest of international peace,” said German ambassador to India.

For Mehta, the German connection dates back to the early 1960s. At the age of 25, he was the youngest conductor directing the Berlin philharmonic orchestra in 1961 and has been associated with the ensemble for the past 50 years, and in his words “never missing a single musical season.”

Responding to the conductor’s desire to play in Jammu and Kashmir, Michael Steiner said it would be appropriate to hold the event with the German symphonic orchestra during the ongoing celebrations of completing 60 years of Indo-German diplomatic relations that started in India in September 2011 and scheduled to go on until early 2013.

“We have to be very careful in selecting time and place but I think playing in Jammu Kashmir to an audience of Muslims and Hindus would be a wonderful sign of peace. It could be a wonderful experience for this region which has gone through many difficulties both psychological and physical,” said Steiner.

Meanwhile, Mehta said he was honored by the award.

“Since I have been making music in Germany since 1961 you can imagine how honored and happy I am. Naively said, it feels wonderful to be recognized,” said the maestro.

Mehta who has worked with some of the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, Los Angeles, Israel and New York Philharmonics, still retains his Indian passport.

He has previously conducted concerts in India in memory of victims of the 2008 tsunami as well as other prominent causes and also is the co-chairman of the Mumbai-based Mehli Mehta Music Foundation set up in honor of his concert violist father, where over 200 children are taught western classical music. -PTI