(photo credit: MARCO BORGGREVE)
The successor to the legendary Zubin Mehta as director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is 29-year-old wunderkind Lahav Shani.
Mehta, 81, announced in December 2016 that he would be retiring after 50 years with the IPO. On Wednesday, the orchestra announced that Shani will begin working as music director designate in the 2019-2020 season and take on the title of music director for the 2020-2021 season.
Like Mehta – who worked concurrently for periods at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino – Shani will stay busy as well. In September 2018 he is set to begin as the chief conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in the Netherlands, and currently serves as the principal guest conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.
In a press release, Shani called it a “great honor” to continue the path of “a huge figure like Zubin Mehta. This orchestra has shaped my musical development from a very young age and my close connection to it has accompanied me for my entire artistic life.”
Indeed Shani first appeared at the IPO as a 16-year-old solo pianist. At age 25, after winning first prize at the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany, the orchestra invited him to conduct its season-opening concerts.
The Tel Aviv native began studying piano at age six, and counts among his mentors the Argentinian-Israeli pianist Daniel Barenboim.
Avi Shoshani, executive director of the IPO, said Mehta blessed the appointment of Shani, whom he has worked with many times over the past few years: “For us, this is not only the closing of a circle, but also the beginning of an exciting and promising future.”