The world-renowned conductor, composer, and mentor, Maestro Lorin Maazel, devoted more than 75 years of his life to music making.
A second-generation American, born in Paris on March 6, 1930, Lorin Maazel began violin lessons at age five and conducting lessons at age seven. He studied with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff, and appeared publicly for the first time at age eight. Between ages nine and fifteen, he conducted most of the major American orchestras, including the NBC Symphony at the invitation of Arturo Toscanini. In the course of his decades-long career, Maestro Maazel conducted more than 150 orchestras in no fewer than 5,000 opera and concert performances. He has made more than 300 recordings, including symphonic cycles of complete orchestral works by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss, winning ten Grands Prix du Disques.
Maestro Maazel was also a highly regarded composer, with a wide-ranging catalog of works written primarily over the last 15 years. His first opera, 1984, based on George Orwell’s literary masterpiece, had its world premiere at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and a sold-out revival at La Scala, Milan.
During his career, Maestro Maazel served as Artistic Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and General Manager of the Vienna State Opera, as Music Director of the Radio Symphony of Berlin, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic. In the last year, he maintained an active conducting schedule, leading 111 concerts in 2013 alone, from Oman to Munich.
A true citizen of the world, fluent in seven languages, Maestro Maazel led orchestras and performances around the globe. He viewed music as a bridge-builder. During his career, he worked in East Berlin and the former Soviet Union. In February 2008, he and the New York Philharmonic visited Pyongyang, North Korea, to perform a concert broadcast on North Korean state television, airing live internationally. “I have always believed that the arts, per se, and their exponents, artists, have a broader role to play in the public arena. But it must be totally apolitical, nonpartisan, and free of issue-specific agendas. It is a role of the highest possible order; bringing peoples and their cultures together on common ground, where the roots of peaceful interchange can imperceptibly but irrevocably take hold,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal in 2008. The North Korean defector singer Ji Hae Nam told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the concert was: “an opportunity for North Korean people to realize that America is not as bad as they’ve learned.”
In addition to conducting and composing, Maestro Maazel was an avid reader and lover of literature, a student of philosophy, astronomy, and math, a film buff, and fierce ping-pong player. He wrote short fiction, watched his fair share of tennis (rare was the U.S. Open he didn’t catch on TV) and listened for pleasure to all kinds of music, especially Tony Bennett. Maestro Maazel was also an ardent fan of technology and engaged with tens of thousands of fans through his blog, Facebook, and Twitter.
With his wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, he founded the Castleton Festival in 2009 and has held annual summer performances and training seminars since then at state-of-the-art venues they built on his Virginia farm. Knowing the value of mentoring he himself benefited from as a youth, Maestro Maazel established the Castleton Festival with a mission: it would be a “vista-opener,” in his words, an opportunity to nurture young musicians through mentoring and performing, to draw audiences to performances showcasing young talent, and to bring fresh energy to classical music alongside established artists such as Denyce Graves and Sir James Galway.
The Castleton Festival is Maestro Maazel’s legacy. As the music soared, he rejoiced in seeing young players, singers, and conductors be transported to unimagined realms. Addressing the audience at the June 28, 2014 opening night of the Castleton Festival, Maestro Maazel described working with the young orchestra and singers as a “more than a labor of love – a labor of joy.”