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7 Sep, 2013

Zubin Mehta conferred India’s Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony 2013


Ministry of Culture, 06-September, 2013 – President of India Mr Pranab Mukherjee here today conferred the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony, 2013 on Maestro Zubin Mehta. The award ceremony was held at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. 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.

The annual award was instituted by the Govt. of India during the commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The award is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, language, caste, creed or sex. The first Tagore Award was conferred on Pandit Ravi Shankar, the Indian Sitar Maestro in 2012.

A High-level Jury under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and comprising the Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Smt. Sushma Swaraj and Mr Gopalkrishna Gandhi after detailed discussions on 4th July, 2013, unanimously decided to select Mr Zubin Mehta to be the second recipient of the Tagore Award, 2013 in recognition of his outstanding contribution to cultural harmony.

Following is the text of citation for Zubin Mehta upon his being conferred the Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony, 2013:

“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.”

Speech by the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee at the presentation of the second Tagore Award for cultural harmony 2013 to Mr Zubin Mehta

It gives me great pleasure to be here today to confer the Second Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony for the year, 2013, to Maestro Zubin Mehta. I congratulate the eminent Jury for their unanimous choice.

2. In felicitating Zubin Mehta with the Tagore Award, we are not only honouring a distinguished son of India, but we are recognizing his untiring efforts, over the decades, to convert music into an instrument of peace and harmony. He has made it his mission to bring hope and reason wherever there is conflict and discord. To audiences across the world, Zubin Mehta has brought a message of optimism – and conviction about the shared destiny of humankind. His name is synonymous with amity and faith. He is a legend in the world of music and an emissary of goodwill between nations. It is only appropriate that this award, instituted to promote the values of universal brotherhood, should be conferred upon him.

3. As the then Chairman of the National Implementation Committee for commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, I recall that this award was instituted to celebrate the vision of Tagore for a more globalised and connected world. Rabindranath Tagore was an internationalist far ahead of his times. A versatile genius, he was a beacon of the cultural renaissance of India in the 19th and early 20th century. His writings on state and society, science and civilization, his musings as a philosopher, his works as a composer and his creations as an artist reflected his abiding love for pluralism and his deep devotion to the cause of humanity.

4. The lifetime of Rabindranath Tagore was witness to cultural, economic, political, and social differences that seemed to threaten the very fabric of our society. Through his progressive writings, Rabindranath endeavoured to bring down the walls of prejudice and remind people of the essential oneness of mankind.

5. Rabindranath Tagore also unequivocally endorsed art and music as harbinger of peace and harmony, which would create an environment for the harmonious coexistence of communities and nations. The Visva-Bharati University established by him is, even today, a focal point for international students wanting to experience the cultural and aesthetic values of India and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

6. Rabindranath Tagore’s deep spiritual insight into music seemed to effortlessly unite the strains of the western and Indian schools and weave their diverse threads together in his unique compositions. Rabindranath Tagore was moved by the Bhatayali songs, the songs of the boatmen, the Baul compositions, the kirtans and the folk tunes. His music perfectly merged the melodies with the poetry that he composed into his famous Rabindra Sangeet. It is due to his exceptional work that he is revered as the first and greatest composer of modern India.

7. Rabindranath Tagore had prophetically stated that he hoped that even if he, himself, were to be forgotten, his music would live on. Today, a hundred and fifty years later, he is still an icon. Just as his writings are acclaimed by critics and connoisseurs of Bengali literature, his Rabindra Sangeet has been embraced by generations in the sub-continent and studied across the world.

8. Indeed, Rabindranath Tagore had a deep understanding of the musical traditions of the world. In a conversation with Albert Einstein, he had said, “I am deeply moved by western music – I feel that it is great, that it is vast in its structure and grand in its composition. Our own music touches me more deeply by its fundamental lyrical appeal. European music is epic in character; it has a broad background and is Gothic in its structure.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

9. Zubin Mehta’s music, too, has the power to transcend boundaries. He has already marked 50 years of his celebrated and successful musical collaboration with the Vienna, Berlin and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras – and earned for himself a unique position in the musical narrative of the world.

10. It is a matter of pride for India that even though he is considered to be a citizen of the world, he has retained his Indian citizenship and, as he traverses the five continents and enthralls with his performances, he is India’s cultural ambassador. As he reaches out, through his music, to inspire states and their people with his message of tolerance and peace, we pay tribute to him for his unfailing efforts to foster unity and understanding among the communities of the world.

11. His spirit and dedication is an affirmation of Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of “that heaven of freedom” where the world is not divided “by narrow domestic walls”.

12. I congratulate Maestro Zubin Mehta once again and wish him a long life of good health and many more years of brilliant music.

Thank you. Jai Hind.