As just about everybody knows by now, Zubin Mehta has left his post as music director of the New York Philharmonic -- his final concert was Schoenberg's "Gurrelieder" this past Tuesday.
He departs after a tenure of 13 years -- the longest any conductor in the Philharmonic's history has had the job. He does this at age 55 -- young for a conductor (his successor, Kurt Masur, is seven years older). As a result, Mr. Mehta will hardly be idle in the foreseeable future. He will still retain his position as music director for life of the Israel Philharmonic, and he'll keep active in the recording studio for the Sony and Telarc labels. He'll also continue working at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, and a recording of "Rigoletto" from there is in the works.
Zubin was musing recently about the last 13 seasons, and stated with a full heart, "The orchestra I'm handing to Masur is absolutely a musical Rolls-Royce."
Like any other conductor, Mr. Mehta has had his detractors, but on one point, critics are unanimously agreed: During the Mehta regime, the Philharmonic's playing has reached the highest standard of excellence in its history.