JERUSALEM • Zubin Mehta took the stage in Tel Aviv on Sunday for an emotional final performance as music director of the Israel Philharmonic, as he retires after 50 years with the orchestra.
The 83-year-old underwent treatment for a cancerous tumour last year.
"From my heart, what this orchestra has given me... not only this one, but all the generations before them. I cannot begin to even describe what I have learnt with these musicians," he told the audience during the intermission.
The charismatic maestro has famously conducted in poignant settings, including when he led a group of Israeli and German musicians near the site of the Nazis' Buchenwald concentration camp in 1999.
He also famously rushed to Israel to perform in support of the country against Arab neighbours during the 1967 Six-Day War, though he later said he opposed the settlement building that followed in the occupied West Bank.
His official biography says, during his tenure, "Mehta conducted more than 3,000 concerts with this extraordinary ensemble, including tours spanning five continents".
He was also music director of Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1962 to 1978 and New York Philharmonic from 1978 to 1991.
During his time in New York, he conducted more than 1,000 concerts, according to the New York Philharmonic website, which says his tenure "was the longest in the orchestra's history".