Lorin Maazel, Legendary Jewish Conductor, Dies at 84


Lorin Maazel, internationally renowned conductor who led the New York Philharmonic, died on Sunday at his home in Virginia after suffering complications from pneumonia. He was 84.

Born in France in 1930 to Jewish American parents, Maazel was raised in the United States where he became a famous child prodigy. At seven years old, he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony. By age 11 he had already performed alongside the legendary Leopold Stokowski; Arturo Toscanini was responsible for securing Maazel his first conducting job at age 12.

Over his career, Maazel conducted more than 150 orchestras and at least 5000 opera and concert performances, the New York Philharmonic said on its website. He made more than 300 recordings and wrote several operas. His first opera, “1984,” based on the George Orwell classic, premiered in May 2005 at London’s Royal Opera House.

Head of the New York Philharmonic from 2002 to 2009, Mr. Maazel sparked controversy in 2008 when the Philharmonic performed in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Mr. Maazel defended the decision in a Wall Street Journal essay, stressing the importance of the arts to “[bring] peoples and their cultures together on common ground.”

Maazel assumed several positions of international leadership, including serving as the director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the general manager of the Vienna State Opera. He directed the Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Years’ Day concert throughout the 1980s, returning for the last time in 2009.

“He had an incredible way in conducting,” Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, told the Wall Street Journal. “Orchestras could follow what he wanted without him having to say much at all.”