Thursday, January 8, 2015

Conductor Lorin Maazel dies at 84

CASTLETON, Va. - Lorin Maazel, 84, the world-renowned conductor whose prodigious career included seven years at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, died Sunday at his home in Virginia.

Mr. Maazel died at Castleton Farms from complications following pneumonia, according to a statement by the Castleton Festival, which he and his wife founded in 2009.

Known for his relentless energy, ego, and passion for precision, Mr. Maazel guided nearly 200 orchestras in at least 7,000 opera and concert performances during 72 years at the podium, according to a biography posted on his website.

Born to American parents in Paris in 1930, he took his first violin lesson at age 5. A dazzling prodigy, he was 7 when he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony. His New York Philharmonic debut came five years later, in 1942. By age 15, he had conducted most of the major U.S. orchestras. At 16, he entered the University of Pittsburgh to study language, mathematics, and philosophy; he played violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony to help pay his tuition.

In 1960, at 30, he became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. He served as artistic director and chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin for five years starting in 1965.

He was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1972 to 1982. He then served briefly - and acrimoniously - as general manager, artistic director, and principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera, the first American to do so. He was music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1988 to 1996.

Mr. Maazel also was music director of the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio for about a decade until 2002. That year, at 70, he was chosen to replace Kurt Masur as music director of the New York Philharmonic, America's oldest orchestra. He opened his inaugural season in New York with the world premiere of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, written to commemorate the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He served in New York for seven years, and led the orchestra on its landmark visit to North Korea in 2008.

Mr. Maazel also was a composer, although to lesser acclaim. His first opera, 1984, based on George Orwell's novel, met with largely negative reviews.

He made more than 300 recordings, including works by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss. He won 10 Grand Prix du Disques, according to his website.

In addition to his third wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, the conductor is survived by four daughters, three sons, and four grandchildren.

Associated Press
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