Monday, February 21, 2011
Zubin Mehta: The Score of My Life
I am not as "well-read" in the music world as I would sometimes like to be. Before coming across Zubin Mehta: The Score of My Life, the autobiography of an apparently world-renowned conductor, while searching for a book whose title began with the letter "Z" (for one of my many reading challenges), I had never heard of Zubin Mehta. I have heard of many of his friends and the musicians and singers with whom he has worked, but not him.
In this book, Mehta tells us his story...from growing up in India, a member of the minority Parsi religious group, to his musical education in Vienna to his growing career as a world-reknowned conductor. For the most part the story is very well-told. I felt as if I were sitting with Mehta and listening to him tell me his story out loud. I would not say that he rambles, but one story leads to another the way stories often do when you're just sitting around chatting with your friends. It makes me wonder if he wrote this autobiography by hand or recorded his thoughts verbally and then transcribed them to written form. The feel of the book has me strongly favoring the latter.
Although I have long been a minor fan of classical music (it was always my favorite background music for studying in college) and have a very small knowledge of composers and their works, it was a real treat to be taken inside the world of classical music and the way the conductors and orchestras bring these works to the public. I very much enoyed Mehta's stories and they were made all the more enjoyable with the interludes from his personal life. Make no mistake, this is a professional autobiography. Mehta is telling the story of how he became a conductor who worked with orchestras from the New York Philharmonic to the Israel Philharmonic to leading the Munich Opera Festival performances. The more personal stories merely serve as a counterpoint to the rest.
My only quibbles (and for this my musical background may be at fault) are with some of the technical descriptions. Musical terminology that the average reader may not be familiar with and which make it hard to follow. I also became a bit bogged down in the sections where he went from description of one practice session (and how that didn't work so well) to the next. But overall, this is a very informative book, told for the most part in a very conversational tone that was highly enjoyable. Three and a half stars.