When I was a student at Yale, I founded a chamber orchestra. I was co-principal cellist of the Yale Symphony at the time, and I recruited from its ranks and from my friends in the Yale School of Music. I put together a fine group of musicians, almost all of whom have gone on to excellent careers in music themselves. I found that conducting came extremely naturally to me, and we gave three seasons of successful, well-attended concerts. I began to attract notice from neighboring communities and received a few invitations to conduct, and even managed to squeeze in a little South American tour around my studies. (continues after the jump)
“Whoever thought that the world-famous countertenor might certainly sing brilliantly, but really didn’t also need to be conducting, was vehemently corrected. In Mozart’s light and airy F-Major Divertimento and especially in the splendid A-Major Symphony it was unmistakable: Mehta as conductor led so passionately, so accomplished and emphatic, that it seemed invisible threads ran from his fingertips directly to the musicians. In the outer movements of the symphony finely calibrated outbursts into forte, effervescent elegance in the minuet, subtle blending of the woodwinds into the svelte sound of the strings, Mehta left nothing to chance and the musicians followed him alert and joyfully. In the Händel arias, he led the ensemble (the basso continuo group expanded with organ and theorbo) full of verve into the elastic Baroque groove before he turned to the public–and sang so beautifully as to melt a stone.” –Jens-Uwe Sommerschuh, “Genii and Kings: star guest Bejun Mehta conducts the Dresden Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra and sings thrilling Händel arias,” Sächsische Zeitung – 12.09.2016
When I graduated from Yale, I had a marvelous yet perplexing choice in front of me: return to my boyhood love of singing, continue conducting and somehow reconstitute an orchestra somewhere, or continue as a cellist and begin taking orchestral auditions. Since singing was my first love—and I also felt that it was better pursued as a younger person—I chose to sing. I knew conducting could wait, and I always intended to return to it someday. My vocal career since then has been well documented, and more wonderful than my wildest dreams.
Simply put, the time to return to conducting is now here. In recent years, I’ve been feeling the need to start bringing together all the strands of my life and career thus far: singing, theater, cello-playing, text and literature, and my years as a recording producer. Conducting allows me to do this.
Conducting can also be a part of my larger artistic goal, which is not just to have a career in music, but a life in music. I still love singing with all my heart and have no plans to slow down. Perhaps the loss of my well-known boy-soprano voice to puberty has made me very pragmatic on this subject, but I have no problem seeing that there are not a lot of 70-year-old singers running around–my friend and colleague Plácido Domingo notwithstanding. Conducting, however, can be forever.
I am very grateful to Hendrik Storme, the GM of the Belgian Baroque Orchestra B’Rock, and its exceptionally fine musicians for having recognized this aspect of my artistic life and for having given me my first opportunity. We came together for a week of work and concerts in October 2013. In the video on this page, I hope you can see the joy we had making music together.
Thanks for reading, happy viewing, and all my very best. –Bejun
- Dresden Philharmonic (March 17, 2018 & future project TBA)
- Württembergisches Kammerorchester
- Kammerakademie Potsdam