This week marks the birthday of two of the participants in Great Conversations in Music, a series of interviews hosted by Eugene Istomin (1925-2003). Video clips from the entire series can be viewed on the Performing Arts Encyclopedia, and are organized by The Pianists, The Composers, Chamber Music, The Virtuosos, and The Conductors.
One of those conductors celebrated a birthday on April 29th, sharing the date with Duke Ellington. Conductor Zubin Mehta was born in Bombay, India, on April 29, 1936. In 1962, Mehta becamse the youngest conductor to lead two major orchestras – the Montreal Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 1978 he took up the baton as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, a position he held until 1991. Since 1986, he has been the music advisor and conductor of the Italian summer festival Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. He is also, among other posts, the current music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Mehta has collaborated with artists as diverse as baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan to the wildly popular Three Tenors: Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and José Carreras. Among the cultural honors he has received are the Order of the Lotus, from India, the Médaille d’Or Vermeil (gold medal), from the city of Paris, and an appointment as Commendatore (Commander/Knight) by the Italian government. See Zubin Mehta’s interview for Great Conversations here.
Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich was born in Miami, Florida on April 30, 1939. She played violin with the American Symphony Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski from 1965 to 1972 and then enrolled at the Juilliard School of Music, where she studied composition with Roger Sessions and Elliott Carter. In 1975, Zwilich became the first woman in Juilliard’s history to graduate with a D.M.A. in composition. Zwilich has received many honors for her compositions, including the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Chamber Music Prize, the Arturo Toscanini Music Critics Award, an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Ernst von Dohnányi Citation, and four Grammy nominations. In 1983, became the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in music, for her Symphony no. 1. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Zwilich is among those interviewed for Great Conversations: the composers, which you can watch here.