Lorin Maazel

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - GLO­RIA TESSLER


HE CON­SID­ERED him­self the last of the Ro­man­tics, but Lorin Maazel was equally mesmerising whether con­duct­ing Beethoven or Gersh­win. He was a child prodigy at the age of nine, the son of Jewish-Amer­i­can par­ents, Lin­coln and Marie, of Dutch and Rus­sian ori­gin, who re­turned to their na­tive Amer­ica when Maazel was two. Clearly mu­sic was in the fam­ily blood; his fa­ther was a singer and ac­tor, his mother founded the Pitts­burgh Youth Sym­phony Or­ches­tra. His pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was a vi­olin­ist with the Metropoli­tan Opera,

At the age of five Lorin Maazel stud­ied both vi­o­lin and con­duct­ing. He made his de­but at 11 with the Univer­sity of Idaho Or­ches­tra, con­duct­ing Schu­bert’s 8th Sym­phony, (the Un­fin­ished). He ap­peared in a white linen suit, giv­ing ev­ery cue on the dot, ac­cord­ing to a New York critic.Toscanini in­vited him to guest con­duct the NBC Sym­phony Or­ches­tra when he was 12.

But chronic ton­sil­li­tis en­forced rest, en­abling him to read all the clas­sics, and prob­a­bly fu­elled his un­ful­filled de­sire to be­come a writer. He en­rolled at the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh and joined its Sym­phony Or­ches­tra to pay his way through school. He stud­ied eco­nom­ics, lit­er­a­ture, French and Rus­sian all night, and worked at his mu­sic all day.

Maazel won a Ful­bright schol­ar­ship to study Ital­ian baroque mu­sic and dur­ing the 1950s he es­tab­lished him­self in Europe. He recorded Ber­lioz’s Romeo and Juliet with the Ber­lin Phi­lar­monic, and marked his Bayreuth de­but with Lo­hen­grin as the first Jewish con­duc­tor since the Sec­ond World War, and the youngest, at the age of 30. He di­rected the pop­u­lar New Year’s Day con­cert in Vi­enna 11 times. His first Lon­don ap­pear­ance, at the Fes­ti­val Hall in 1960 con­duct­ing Mahler’s Sec­ond Sym­phony with the BBC Sym­phony Or­ches­tra won crit­i­cal ac­claim.

Lorin Maazel mar­ried three times; to Mimi Sand­bank in 1952, to Is­raeli con­cert pian­ist Is­raela Mar­galit in 1969 and to Di­etlinde Tur­ban, a pop­u­lar Ger­man TV ac­tress in 1986.

In the mid 1960s he be­came chief con­duc­tor of Ber­lin’s Deutsche Oper and the Ber­lin Ra­dio Sym­phony Or­ches­tra, later re­turn­ing to Bayreuth to con­duct the full Ring cy­cle. He en­joyed a string of mu­si­cal di­rec­tor­ships with ma­jor in­ter­na­tional or­ches­tras and in 1996 was re­puted to be the high­est-paid con­duc­tor in Europe. Fre­quently ap­pear­ing in Lon­don, Maazel be­came as­so­ciate prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor of the Phil­har­mo­nia in 1971 and made his Covent Gar­den de­but with Verdi’s Luisa Miller in 1978. Known for his pow­er­ful artis­tic sense, and a cer­tain au­to­cratic man­ner, he was as ad­mired as he was feared. Spats with mu­si­cians led to the cur­tail­ment of his four year con­tract with the Vi­enna State Opera in 1984, al­though the or­ches­tra had squab­bled with more equable con­duc­tors than him.

Maazel twice con­ducted all the Beethoven sym­phonies in a sin­gle day. Less well known was his gift for com­po­si­tion. His opera, 1984, based on Ge­orge Or­well’s novel, was pre­miered by the Royal Opera in 2005 and later Mi­lan’s La Scala In 1979 he con­ducted the sound­track for Joseph Losey’s ac­claimed film of Don Gio­vanni fol­lowed by Francesco Rossi’s Car­men in 1984 and Franco Zef­firelli’s Otello two years later. He filmed A Week in the Life of a Con­duc­tor. for French TV and his love of opera re­sulted in over 300 opera record­ings.

An off-the-wall dream of this poly­math was to be­come a space sci­en­tist. But his more tan­gi­ble dream – of be­ing ap­pointed mu­si­cal direc­tor of the Ber­lin Philharmonic – eluded him and went in­stead in 1989 Clau­dio Ab­bado. The ap­point­ment drew fire from Maazel who sev­ered all con­nec­tion to the or­ches­tra.

In 1999 he per­formed his own con­certo, Mu­sic for Vi­o­lin and Or­ches­tra at Lon­don’s Bar­bican. Lorin Maazal is sur­vived by Di­etlinde, their three chil­dren and four chil­dren from his pre­vi­ous mar­riages.


Lorin Maazel: be­came the first Jewish con­duc­tor at the Bayreuth Fes­ti­val since the Sec­ond World War

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