As of: February 9, 2024 8:24 p.m
The Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa is dead. The former music director of the Vienna State Opera died of heart failure at his home in Tokyo on February 6th, as his management announced. He was 88 years old.
Seiji Ozawa was born on September 1, 1935 in Shenyang, in what is now China. When he was six years old, his parents moved with him to Japan. He wanted to be a pianist, but an accident while playing rugby ended his dream. His mother sent the 14-year-old to an orchestra concert.
Saito Kinen, who had studied cello and conducting in Berlin in the 1920s, opened the world of Western music to him. But the Japanese initially refused to conduct under Ozawa’s direction. They didn’t want an Asian conductor for Western classical music. Today they are grateful to him for continuing on his path undeterred.
Seiji Ozawa: “bundle of energy” with a “heart of gold”
Young conductors attended his courses in droves. Technology, heart and mind are the basis, explained Ozawa. But the most important questions are: What life are you living? What kind of person are you? And what are you capable of feeling?
Ozawa has a heart of gold, enthused Anne-Sophie Mutter after the 2019 concert, and everyone who met him was touched by his radiant friendliness, which is in no way accompanied by negligence. Absolute precision in tempo and dynamics were the Japanese’s trademarks.
Karajan’s gestures and Bernstein’s heart brought Seiji Ozawa to the top
It was with particular pleasure that the Berlin Philharmonic named Ozawa an honorary member in 2016. He had recovered from his serious cancer and returned to them. He sat there casually, wearing his red sneakers, and laughed as we looked back on his career together.
The actor Viktor de Kowa opened the door for him, said Ozawa. He was married to a Japanese actress and introduced the 31-year-old conductor to Herbert von Karajan. Karajan considered Ozawa his student throughout his life. He allowed him to go to Leonard Bernstein in New York for a year and continued to determine his repertoire for a long time. Karajan’s gestures and Bernstein’s heart brought Seiji Ozawa to the top of the world orchestras in Europe, Asia and America. He was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for almost 30 years and set standards there. From there he moved to the Vienna State Opera, where he also ended his career as music director.
Wide repertoire with tonal brilliance
The small, wiry Japanese man with many smile lines was often described as a “bundle of energy”. For decades he conducted only a few operas, but with great success. His broad repertoire was as impressive as the tonal brilliance that he achieved with the orchestra. In recent years, however, the great conductor has been plagued by health problems.
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NDR Culture | The morning | Feb 9, 2024 | 12:40 p.m