Conductor Maazel dies at 84

Last modified: Sunday, July 13, 2014
Lorin Maazel, who began his career as a child prodigy and went on to conduct many of the world’s great orchestras, has died at age 84.

Maazel died Sunday in Virginia. He had been at his home, Castleton Farms, preparing for his annual music festival, according to organizers.

His death came a month after he resigned with a “heavy heart” from his position as music director of the Munich Philharmonic, citing health concerns.

At the time he thanked the many fans who had asked him to keep conducting and said he hoped to return after this season, as well as accept “occasional appearances along the way.”

Over the course of his career, Maazel conducted an average of two concerts a week for more than 70 years with more than 200 orchestras.

He was born in Paris on March 6, 1930, to American parents. In 1932, the musical family moved to Los Angeles where he played violin with the Karl Moldrem Baby Orchestra.

At 7, the young violinist also began studying conducting under Russian maestro Vladimir Bakaleinikoff. From ages 9 to 12, he conducted several major U.S. orchestras, including Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra.

A 1939 performance at the Hollywood Bowl was among his first in public and he told The Los Angeles Times in 2010 that he always had an affinity for L.A.

“I spent the first years of my life here. I heard my first concert here, conducted by Otto Klemperer,” he said during a stint conducting at Disney Hall.

Maazel insisted that his childhood was normal, although admittedly focused on music. When Bakaleinikoff moved to Pittsburgh, the Maazels followed. As a student at the University of Pittsburgh, he was a violinist and apprentice conductor at the Pittsburgh Symphony. He later returned to those roots, as music director from 1988 to 1996.

Maazel took on many high-profile jobs over his seven-decade career. He was the first American to be principle conductor of the Vienna State Opera. He served as director of the New York Philharmonic for seven years.

Maazel served as artistic director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, led the Radio Symphony of Berlin, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio and the Cleveland Orchestra, according to his website.

“The moment a real conductor takes charge of an orchestra, the sound of that orchestra changes,” he said, explaining that he wasn’t interested in retirement.

Although Maazel continued to conduct, he also hosted concerts at this Virginia estate and, in 2010, began a music festival aimed at mentoring young musicians.

“I never thought conducting could be a career,” Maazel said. “It became one. It’s been a long and interesting road, and I’ve had a very full, rich and marvelous life doing things I wanted to do. I took four sabbaticals, learned many languages, traveled extensively, and had a very rich personal life.”