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Hamas And Israel Must Make Concessions

Zubin Mehta is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s conductor for life but the legendary musician is not afraid to criticise the region’s politics

8/29/2014 3:37:52 PM
written By : Shobha Tsering Bhalla Print

It is always easier to interview an icon than a celebrity. Free of the strictures of public relations and the encumbrances of plebian social baggage, icons are comfortable in their own skin and thus more accessible. They are also more intellectually bold, liberated as they are from vanity and the insecurity of censors.

This was brought home to me one recent Friday morning when I got an overseas call and a plummy voice, with the polished haughtiness of a trained butler, asked me to hold as he put me through to “Mr Mehta who apologises for missing your call and would like to speak to you.” He was referring to the legendary music maestro Zubin Mehta, no less. 

Mehta, who will be coming to Singapore in November to perform with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, had just returned home and was returning my call after he had missed the scheduled interview time. His house-keeper had taken my particulars and that was that I thought, rueing the missed chance and presuming he had forgotten. But he called back within minutes of reaching home and slipped comfortably into a discussion after a warm greeting and apology and several invitations to his concert and rehearsals. “You must come to my rehearsal, we can talk there,” he offered kindly, even mentioning that he wouldn’t mind a “Parsi Frill Cutlet with plenty of tomato gravy,” after finding out that I cooked Parsi food.

No question is too inconsequential or delicate for the 78-year-old musician to handle, he parries them all with his rapier sharp opinions – “I don’t feel good at all. I feel both sides need to make enormous sacrifices. Hamas must give up the credo of the destruction of Israel and Israel must give them more breathing space,” about the conflict in Gaza between Hamas and Israel; “well, the badmaashes (mischievous ones) in Kashmir tried to politicise it,” about the Concert For Kashmir that Mehta and the Bavarian State Orchestra performed in September 2013 in Srinagar and an emphatic “no I don’t,” about listening to Bollywood music.

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