Zubin Mehta in 1961 - and bringing with him, a much-needed shot of giddy to Los Angeles.
Zubin Mehta in 1961 – and bringing with him, a much-needed shot of giddy to Los Angeles.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – Los Angeles Philharmonic – Zubin Mehta, cond. Byron Janis, piano – Hollywood Bowl – August 1, 1961 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

I ran this several years ago at my other site, in less than great sound. But if you missed it then, this is the concert that marked Zubin Mehta’s conducting debut with the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 1961. And the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship along with a much needed shot-in-the-arm for the Arts scene in L.A. – not to mention a harbinger of things to come in the 1960s.

Zubin Mehta represented the young blood that seemed to mark the beginning of the decade. We had a young President in the White House, why couldn’t we have a young conductor at the Podium? Zubin Mehta filled the bill perfectly – he had energy, enthusiasm, a passion for new music, but was also steeped in the old tradition (studying with none other than the legendary Hans Swarowsky) – in short, he had appeal to everybody. And everybody was crazy about him.

So in 1962, Zubin Mehta was appointed Music Director of the L.A. Philharmonic; a position he held until 1978 when he left L.A. and headed to New York.

This weekend it’s that debut concert – the one that got everybody talking. With pianist Byron Janis performing the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto #3 and Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

As far as I know, this was only broadcast by the Armed Forces Radio Service, who recorded it for their series of Hollywood Bowl Concerts in 1961. The sound is strange in several places, not the least being the occasional fly-by during the quiet parts, or what sounds like a fire-cracker going off during the Berlioz. But it’s something of a tradition at the Bowl anyway – that, and the tell-tale clank of empty wine bottles careening down the steps to the box seats.

For history you must occasionally suffer.

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