Seiji Ozawa

Japanese orchestra conductor (1935–2024)

Seiji Ozawa (born 1 September 1935 – died 6 February 2024) was a Japanese conductor. He has conducted many of the world’s greatest orchestras and is especially known for his work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra which he conducted for 29 years.

Seiji Ozawa

Life change

Seiji Ozawa was born in 1935 in Fenytien (now Shenyang, Liaoning, China). His parents were Japanese. Shenyang was under Japanese occupation at the time. When his family returned to Japan in 1944 he started learning the piano. After hurting his finger in a game of rugby in 1950 he became interested in conducting. He studied at the Toho School of Music, Tokyo and graduated with first prizes in composition and conducting. In 1959 he won first prize at the International Competition of Orchestra Conductors in Besançon, France. He was invited to the Tanglewood Music Center where he won a prize for conducting.

Ozawa worked with Herbert von Karajan in Berlin. In 1961 he was appointed as Leonard Bernstein’s assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for one year. He conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at their summer residence, the Ravinia Festival, for five summers, then became director of the Toronto Symphony from 1965 to 1969 and music director of the San Francisco Symphony from 1970 to 1976. He often conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra and became its music director in 1973, a post which he held for 29 years. He became artistic director of Tanglewood in 1970. In 2002 he became music director of the Vienna State Opera, also conducting concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Ozawa has made many recordings which have been highly praised. He has received many honours, including the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur for his support for French composers. When a new hall was built in Tanglewood it was named Seiji Ozawa Hall.

In 1992 Ozawa started the Saito Kinen Festival in memory of his teacher.

He was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra longer than any other conductor. Under Ozawa the orchestra remained one of the best in the world and often performed new musical compositions by living composers. They recorded more than 140 works together.

When Ozawa conducts he wears a poloneck shirt instead of the traditional black tie and suit.

References change