Gary Bertini was born Shloyme Golergant in Bricheva, Bessarabia, then in Romania, now in Moldova. His father, K. A. Bertini (Arn Golergant), was a poet and translator of the Russian (Leonid Andereyev) and Yiddish (A.Sutzkever, H. Leivick) literature into Hebrew, and of the Hebrew works into Yiddish. His mother Berta Golergant was a physician and biologist. They immigrated to Palestine in 1946. Gary studied music at the Music Teachers' College in Tel Aviv and then in Milan, Italy, and at the Paris Conservatoire.
Upon returning to Israel, Gary Bertini established Rinat (the Israel Chamber Choir) in 1955. He was musical advisor to the Batsheva Dance Company. He founded the Israel Chamber Orchestra in 1965 and was its conductor until 1975. He was conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra from 1978 to 1986. He was artistic director of the New Israeli Opera. He promoted Israeli music and helped shape it.
Bertini's work also took him outside Israel. He was music advisor to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1981 to 1983 and the Principal Conductor of the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1983 until 1991. He also served as artistic director of the Hamburg Opera, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Rome Opera and, just before he died, the San Carlo Opera in Naples.
In 1987 Bertini was awarded the Israel Prize, the most prestigious award handed out by the State of Israel. In 1995 he won two prizes: Conductor of the Year, and Fermio Abiatti Prize of the Italian Music Critics Union.
Bertini's recording of the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies (EMI Classics 40238) is very well regarded.