Maazel2Lorin Maazel, (March 6, 1930 – July 13, 2014), conductor and composer.

Lorin Maazel was born in France, but raised in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Both his parents and his grandfather were successful concert musicians and his own musical talents were evident at an early age. He began piano studies at the age of five, followed by the violin and conducting lessons. He conducted his first public concert at the age of eight. He went on to attend and conduct the Interlochen Music Camp orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony the following year. At the age of 11, Toscanini invited him to guest conduct the famed NBC Symphony Orchestra for a radio broadcast. His conducting teachers included Vladimir Bakaleinikov and Pierre Monteux.

At the age of thirty, he became the first American and youngest conductor to perform at Wagner’s Bayreuth Opera House. He was also the first conductor to record Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with an all African-American cast. Maazel divided his time between engagements in the U.S. and Europe. He replaced George Szell as conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra. He also held long-term posts with the French National Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony. Other conducting appointments included the Gershwin Concert Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Vienna State Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic, (beginning his seven-year tenure there shortly after the 9/11 attack and leading the orchestra on a celebrated tour of North Korea in 2008).

Maazel was especially noted for his opera performances. He conducted for the film recordings of Carmen and Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Otello, both of which featured Placido Domingo, as well as the two operas of Maurice Ravel, (L’heure espagnole and L’enfant et les sortilèges) and Beethoven’s Fidelio. He also conducted the premiere performance and audio and video recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem, which won a Grammy Award. Other notable recordings during his career include complete symphonic cycles of Beethoven, Mahler, Sibelius, and Rachmaninoff, as well as one of the first digital recordings of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

In addition to his career, Maazel also composed music, most notably an opera 1984, based on Orwell’s dystopian novel, as well as concertante works for Mstislav Rostropovich and James Galway. He founded a music festival held annually at his estate in Castleton Farms, Virginia, His honors include 4 Grammy Awards, (including one for John Adams‘ 9/11 tribute piece On the Transmigration of Souls), 10 Grande Prix du Disque Awards, and a Commander of the French Legion of Honor. He died at the age of 84 from pneumonia at his home in Virginia, where he had been rehearsing and preparing for his Castleton Festival.

Alan Gilbert, Maazel’s successor at the New York Philharmonic, had this to say about him:

For decades he was a major force in the musical world, and truly an inspiration for generations of American musicians… Personally, I am grateful to him, not only for the brilliant state of the Orchestra that I inherited from him, but for the support and encouragement he extended to me when I took over his responsibilities.”

Visit the official Lorin Maazel website here.