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On the death of Seiji Ozawa: world-class Japanese conductor | News and criticism | BR CLASSIC

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On the death of Seiji Ozawa: world-class Japanese conductor |  News and criticism |  BR CLASSIC

On the death of Seiji Ozawa

World-class Japanese conductor

February 9, 2024 by Fridemann Leipold

He has worked in all the world‘s major opera houses and received worldwide recognition: conductor Seiji Ozawa. He received decisive impulses as an assistant to Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. On February 6, Ozawa died of heart failure. He was 88 years old.

Image source: picture alliance/AP Images | Kenichi Matsuda

On the death of Seiji Ozawa

World-class Japanese conductor

Even in old age, Seiji Ozawa led his Saito Kinen Orchestra. The Japanese music star founded it in 1984 in memory of his teacher Hideo Saito, with whom Ozawa studied composition and conducting in Tokyo. He has also established his own festival for his project orchestra in Matsumoto, Japan.

Seiji Ozawa was influenced by the dialogue between cultures

Due to hand injury: conductor instead of pianist

Ozawa actually wanted to become a pianist. After a hand injury while playing rugby, he switched to studying conducting. He received the decisive impulses as an assistant to Leonard Bernstein in New York and to Herbert von Karajan. “When I came to Europe to see Mr. von Karajan, he introduced me to Mahler’s ‘Song of the Earth’, to Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, to Richard Strauss, Brahms and Wagner,” Ozawa once said in an interview with BR- CLASSIC. “I learned musical lines and the art of phrasing from Karajan. I couldn’t learn that so well in Japan. It was wonderful for me to study with Karajan in Berlin in 1959 and ’60. A dream came true.”

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 (Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra)

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Stations in Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston

From 1970 onwards, Ozawa played a key role as the long-time director of the Tanglewood Festival, where he made a name for himself as a promoter of young talent and was honored for his commitment with the construction of the Seiji Ozawa Hall. Since then, it has also been the summer residence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which Ozawa has led for almost three decades after stints in Chicago, Toronto and San Francisco – with lasting success. Ozawa’s era in Boston represents the brilliance of top American orchestras.

In memoriam Seiji Ozawa

In the “Klassik-Stars” series, BR-KLASSIK pays tribute to the late conductor Seiji Ozawa: on Monday, February 12, 2024 from 6:05 p.m. on the radio.

Seiji Ozawa was music director of the Vienna State Opera for a long time

Seiji Ozawa: Full commitment to contemporary music

Although Ozawa undoubtedly belonged to the elite of glamorous jet-set conductors who knew how to perfectly serve the mainstream, one should not forget that he was also an advocate for contemporary music. The list of works he premiered is long, ranging from Cage, Xenakis, Ligeti to Henze and Ozawa’s compatriot Tōru Takemitsu. However, Ozawa’s name will forever be linked to Olivier Messiaen’s epoch-making opera oratorio “Saint François d’Assise”, which he premiered in Paris in 1983 to stunning effect.

Olivier Messiaen: Saint Francis of Assisi (Franciscan Scenes) — Ozawa, van Dam, etc. (first)

Seiji Ozawa was also a rare but welcome guest with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Broadcast: “Classic-Stars – in memory of Seiji Ozawa” on 12. February from 6:05 p.m. on BR-KLASSIK

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