Conductor Lorin Maazel dies at 84

13 July 2014, 20:09

Lorin Maazel, a conductor who held directorships of New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera, has died at his home in Castleton, Virginia, aged 84.

Maazel had been rehearsing for the annual month-long Castleton music festival, which is currently being held at his farm, when he was taken ill with pneumonia. He died of complications.

The very last concerts Maazel ever conducted were in March this year with Philharmonia Orchestra – Classic FM’s Orchestra on Tour – in Basingstoke, Leicester and London. David Whelton, managing director of the Philharmonia, told Classic FM that Maazel was "unbelievably generous, incredibly funny and a fount of anecdotes".

David Whelton on Lorin Maazel

Maazel was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in France in 1930 to Jewish American parents. His father worked as a singing teacher, his mother founded the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra, and his grandfather, Isaac, was a violinist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Gallery: Lorin Maazel - a life in pictures
Gallery: the 16 greatest conductors of all time

Maazel was a child prodigy, making his podium debut at the age of eight and shortly afterwards touring America, conducting many of the country's major orchestras.

In 1960 he became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in Germany. The venue is famous for being solely dedicated to the performances of operas by Richard Wagner.

He became the Chief Conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1965 to 1971 and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1965 to 1975.

Maazel succeeded George Szell as music director with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1972. It was during his tenure here that the first stereo recording of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess using an all-black cast was made.

The 1980s proved to be a particularly busy period for Maazel, who produced acclaimed recordings with many of the world's finest orchestras. This performance (below) of Brahms' Symphony No. 4 was performed with the Bayerische Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra in 1995.

 

In 2002, Maazel succeeded Kurt Masur as music director at the New York Philharmonic, and the Munich Philharmonic from 2011.

Maazel was famed as a consummate professional. Whelton says he was "the musicians' musician". Remembering a series of auditions for assistant conductors at the Philharmonia that Maazel sat in on, Whelton said: "After six hours of auditions, members of the orchestra turned to me and said they’d never heard such wisdom from any conductor... his comments, observations and advice to these young conductors was pure gold dust."

Maazel is survived by his wife Dietlinde Turban Maazel, and their two sons and daughter. Maazel had and three daughters and a son from previous marriages.

What are your memories of Lorin Maazel? Tell us in the comments section below.

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