CASTLETON, Va. — Conductor Lorin Maazel, whose prodigious career included seven years at the helm of the New York Philharmonic, died Sunday at his home in northern Virginia. He was 84.
Maazel died at Castleton Farms from complications following pneumonia, according to a statement by The Castleton Festival, an annual festival that Maazel founded with his wife in 2009. Maazel was rehearsing and preparing for the festival at the time of his death. The death was also announced on Maazel’s official website.
Known for his relentless energy and passion for precision, Maazel led nearly 200 orchestras in at least 7,000 opera and concert performances during 72 years at the podium, according to a biography posted on his website.
Maazel, an American born in Paris in 1930, took his first violin lesson at age 5. A dazzling prodigy, he was 7 when he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony. His New York Philharmonic debut came five years later, in 1942. By age 15, he had conducted most of the major American orchestras. At 16, he entered the University of Pittsburgh to study language, mathematics and philosophy and played the violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony to help pay tuition.
In 1960, at age 30, he became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival in Germany. He served as artistic director and chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin for five years starting in 1965.
He was music director of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1972 to 1982. He then served briefly as general manager and artistic director of the Vienna State Opera, the first American to do so. He was also music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony from 1988 to 1996.
Maazel was music director of the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio for about a decade until 2002. That year, he was chosen to replace Kurt Masur as music director of the New York Philharmonic – America’s oldest orchestra. Maazel served there for seven years and was with the orchestra at the time of its landmark visit to Pyongyang, North Korea in 2008.
Maazel also was a composer, although to lesser acclaim. His first opera, “1984,” based on George Orwell’s novel, met with largely negative reviews.
Maazel founded the Castleton Festival to mentor young musicians and to bring new energy to classical music with performances showcasing young talent. Maazel told the audience on the opening night of this year’s festival on June 28 that working with young artists was “more than a labor of love – a labor of joy,” the festival’s statement said.
Maazel made more than 300 recordings, including works by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Richard Strauss. He won 10 Grand Prix du Disques, according to his website.
In addition to Dietlinde Turban Maazel, his wife, Maazel is survived by four daughters, three sons and four grandchildren.