Monday, July 14, 2014

Lorin Maazel (1930-2014)

Lorin Maazel, the eminent conductor who in recent years has staged a summer music festival at Castleton Farms, his estate in Rappahannock County, VA, has died at 84 of complications following pneumonia, according to a statement posted on the festival’s website (

Maazel had been in the midst of rehearsals and performances at the Castleton Festival, which he founded in 2009 with his wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, at the end of his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic. He described working with young singers and instrumentalists at the festival as “more than a labor of love – a labor of joy.”

A professional musician for three quarters of a century, Maazel was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, to American parents, and reared in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. He began violin study at age 5, performed publicly for the first time when he was 8, and began conducting at 9.

When he was 11, Maazel was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra. (Among the works on that program was a piece by Dika Newlin, then a 17-year-old pupil of Arnold Schoenberg; she later became a music professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and a doyen of Richmond’s alternative-music scene.)

Maazel conducted more than 150 orchestras and opera companies in thousands of performances during his long career. His discography runs to more than 300 recordings.

He also was a composer of operas – notably “1984,” after the George Orwell novel – and concert works. Three of his works, including “Irish Vapours and Capers,” featuring flutist James Galway, were on the program of a Castleton Festival Orchestra concert on July 13, staged in memory of Maazel.

The New York Philharmonic will dedicate its July 14 concert in Central Park to Maazel, playing Barber’s Adagio in his memory. Alan Gilbert, who succeeded Maazel as the orchestra’s music director, called his predecessor “a major force in the musical world, and truly an inspiration for generations of American musicians.”

In 1960, Maazel became the first American to conduct at Bayreuth, the Wagner shrine and festival in Germany, leading a production of “Lohengrin.”

He served as music director or chief conductor of the Berlin Radio (RIAS) Symphony Orchestra (1964-75), the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1965-71), the Cleveland Orchestra (1972-82), Orchestre National de France (1977-91), the Vienna State Opera (1982-84), the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1988-96), the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1993-2002) and the New York Philharmonic (2002-09).

He was named chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic in 2010. He resigned from the post last month on medical advice, at the same time withdrawing from all professional engagements other than the Castleton Festival.

An obituary by Allan Kozinn in The New York Times:

An obituary by Anne Midgette in The Washington Post:

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In a 2012 video, Maazel conducts Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra in “The ‘Ring’ without Words,” his orchestral distillation of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle:

A 1986 performance of the Verdi Requiem, with tenor Luciano Pavarotti, led by Maazel at the Philadelphia Spectrum:

And a much younger Maazel plays the solo (with his own cadenza) and directs the Vienna Philharmonic in the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216: