To say that Lorin Maazel's career is brilliant is an understatement: entering the conducting arena at the age of eight (leading the University of Idaho Orchestra in a performance of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 ), he has conducted the world's greatest orchestras, establishing a legacy of unforgettable performances and stellar recordings of the standard repertoire, with particular emphasis on opera. His recordings of Puccini's operas, for example, have set a new performance standard, bringing out the elemental power and emotional richness of Puccini's music.
While many opera conductors tend to perform as accompanists, Maazel treats the orchestra as an integral element of the performance, as an instrument which adds a crucial dimension to the singing. Exemplifying the critical response to Maazel's work as an opera conductor is Robert Croan's review, in Opera News, of a 2000 production of Verdi's La Traviata under Maazel's direction; Croan asserted that "Maazel brought a new degree of energy and refinement to the ensemble, sculpting phrases with endless subtleties of color and nuance." Yet Maazel is also a great symphonic conductor, with exceptional recordings of symphonies by Beethoven, Mahler, and Sibelius.
Born to American parents in France in 1930, Maazel was the kind of prodigy that science has yet to explain: possessing perfect pitch and a prodigious memory, he absorbed music, in its immense complexity, seemingly without effort. Having started with violin lessons at the age of five in Los Angeles, where the family moved not long after his birth, he quickly attained an enviable level of proficiency, eventually becoming a true virtuoso. However, Maazel's favorite instrument, from the very beginning, was the orchestra, and his earliest music lessons included sessions with Vladimir Bakaleinikov, associate conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
In 1938, when Bakaleinikov accepted the post of assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Maazel family moved to Pittsburgh so that the young conductor could continue working with his teacher. Maazel was only nine when he performed at the World's Fair in New York. Two years later, he conducted Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra, impressing the great maestro. Following these early successes as a conductor, Maazel appeared on the concert podium as a violinist, making his debut in 1945 and leading the Pittsburgh Fine Arts Quartet.
Adulthood and New Horizons
Like many musical prodigies, Maazel excelled in other fields, mastering languages and other areas of knowledge. In his late teens, he attended the University of Pittsburgh, taking courses in modern languages, mathematics, and philosophy. In 1948, Maazel got a job with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as a violinist, soon becoming the orchestra's apprentice conductor. A Fulbright fellowship (to study Baroque music) took him to Italy, where he entered the international musical scene. A noted performance as a conductor in Italy in 1953 led to engagements in Germany and Austria.
In 1960 Maazel made his London debut, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a remarkable performance of Mahler's music. Following his London triumph, Maazel made history, that same year, as the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival, the original home of German composer Richard Wagner's operas and in many ways a shrine to Germanic musical art. His interpretation of Wagner's opera Lohengrin received such critical acclaim that he returned, in the 1968-69 season, to conduct the entire Ring of the Nibelungen cycle of four operas.
After his New York Metropolitan Opera debut in 1962, when he conducted Mozart's Don Giovanni, Maazel became one of the world's most respected opera conductors. While he remained interested in a wide array of music, maintaining professional ties with a variety of highly regarded orchestras, Maazel seemed to have found his vocation as an opera conductor. In 1965, the year he produced and conducted Tchaikovsky's Yevgeni Onegin in Rome, Maazel joined the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, West Germany, as artistic director. At the Deutsche Oper, Maazel not only created distinguished productions of standard operas but also ventured into the less familiar field of twentieth-century opera, conducting the premiere, in 1968, of Luigi Dallapiccola's Ulisse.
During the 1970s Maazel's focus was the Cleveland Orchestra, which he led from 1972 to 1982, expanding the orchestra's repertoire and introducing new approaches to opera performance. After a decade with a great orchestra, Maazel was ready for a new challenge. That challenge came in 1982, in the form of an offer to lead the Vienna Staatsoper (State Opera), as artistic and general director. Accepting the challenge, Maazel made history again, as the first American to direct this venerable opera house. The choice of Maazel, with his impeccable German and intimate knowledge of the German opera scene, made perfect sense. In many ways, as a conductor, he was what opera companies dreamed about.
For the Record . . .
Born Lorin Varencove Maazel on March 6, 1930, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. Education: Studied violin with Karl Moldrem; studied piano with Fanchon Armitage; studied conducting with Vladimir Bakaleinikov; attended University of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, violinist and apprentice conductor, 1948-51; Deutsche Oper, artistic director, 1965-71; Berlin (West) Radio Symphony Orchestra, principal conductor, 1965-75; New Philharmonia Orchestra of London, associate principal conductor, 1971-72, principal guest conductor, 1976-80; Cleveland Orchestra, music director, 1972-82; Orchestre National de France, principal conductor, 1977-82, principal guest conductor, 1982-88, musical director, 1988-91; Vienna State Opera, artistic director and general manager, 1982-84; Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, music consultant, 1984-86; music advisor and principal guest conductor, 1986-88, music director, 1988-96; Bavarian Radio Symphony, principal conductor, 1993-2002.
Awards: Sibelius Prize; Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit (Germany); Légion d'Honneur; Edison Prize (Netherlands); ten Grand Prix du Disque; several European awards (for popular film and television presentations of works of classical music), including Bambi, Fantastico, and Sept Jours.
Addresses: Office— Z. des Aubris, Tal 15, D-80331 Munich, Germany.
Unfortunately, Maazel's genius was no match for the ever-changing politics of Viennese opera. Frustrated by political interference, Maazel returned to the United States in 1984. He immediately accepted the post of music consultant to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which he led, as music director, from 1988 to 1996. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Maazel maintained his ties with European orchestras, conducting the popular Vienna Philharmoni New Year's Day Concert from 1980 to 1986, and returning in 1994. In 1993, he became music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra; this appointment prompted considerable public comment, including remarks concerning the new director's salary, which some considered excessive. Maazel's defenders reacted to these claims by pointing to the conductor's generosity, which included giving benefit concerts for organizations such as UNICEF and the International Red Cross.
Beyond the Auditorium
Maazel left the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1996, devoting his energies to composition (a work for cello and orchestra, dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, had its premiere in 1996), the violin, and various film and television projects. As a conductor, Maazel belonged by the turn of the century to a small elite of world-class musicians. As an artist, however, he had come to believe that music is not the property of any elite but rather belongs to everybody.
Consequently, he turned to the popular media of film and television, creating new forms of programming in an effort to bring classical music to a wider audience. These projects included television versions of Gustav Holst's The Planets and Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, as well as film versions of Mozart's Don Giovanni, directed by Joseph Losey, and Bizet's Carmen, directed by Francesco Rossi. And finally, it may come as no surprise that the multitalented Maazel by 2003 had served as the narrator, in six langauges, for six different recordings of Prokofiev's spoken-word children's composition Peter and the Wolf.
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9, CBS, 1990.
Gustav Holst, The Planets, CBS, 1990.
Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, Telarc, 1990.
Sergey Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf, Deutsche Grammophon, 1990.
Giacomo Puccini, Madama Butterfly, CBS, 1990.
Giuseppe Verdi, Aida, Decca, 1990.
Georges Bizet, Carmen, Erato, 1991.
Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio, Decca, 1996.
Sergey Rachmaninov, Three Symphonies, Deutsche Gram-mophon, 1996.
Camille Saint-Saëns, Symphony No. 3, Sony, 1996.
Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird Suite, Deutsche Grammophon, 1996.
César Franck, Symphony in D minor, Deutsche Grammophon, 1997.
Maurice Ravel, Boléro, La Valse, RCA, 1997.
Maurice Ravel, L'Enfant et les sortilèges, Deutsche Gram-mophon, 1997.
Johannes Brahms, Ein deutsches Requiem, Deutsche Grammophon, 1998.
Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 8, Deutsche Grammophon, 1998.
Giacomo Puccini, Tosca, Decca, 1999.
Ottorino Respighi, Feste Romane, Decca, 2000.
Igor Stravinsky, Petrouchka, Deutsche Grammophon, 2001.
Jean Sibelius, Symphonies, Violin Concerto, Sony, 2002.
Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Telarc, 2002.
Giuseppe Verdi, Otello, EMI, 2002.
Gustav Mahler, The Complete Symphonies, Sony, 2003.
Giacomo Puccini, Turandot, Sony, 2003.
Sadie, Stanley, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Macmillan, 2001.
Slonimsky, Nicolas, editor, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Schirmer, 2001.
New York Observer, February 5, 2001.
New York Times, September 19, 2003.
Opera News, February 4, 1995, p. 43.
Maazel, Lorin (Varencove)
Maazel, Lorin (Varencove)
Maazel, Lorin (Varencove), brilliant American conductor; b. Neuilly, France (of American parents), March 6, 1930. His parents took him to Los Angeles when he was an infant. At a very early age, he showed innate musical ability; he had perfect pitch and could assimilate music osmotically; he began to study violin at age 5 with Karl Moldrem, and then piano at age 7 with Fanchon Armitage. Fascinated by the art of conducting, he went to sym. concerts and soon began to take lessons in conducting with Vladimir Bakaleinikov, who was an assoc. conductor of the Los Angeles Phil.; on July 13, 1938, at the age of 8, he was given a chance to conduct a performance of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony with the visiting Univ. of Idaho orch. In 1938 Bakaleinikov was appointed asst. conductor of the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch., and the Maazel family followed him to Pittsburgh. From Bakaleinikov, Maazel quickly learned to speak Russian. On Aug. 18, 1939, he made a sensational appearance in N.Y. conducting the National Music Camp Orch. of Interlochen at the World’s Fair, eliciting the inevitable jocular comments (he was compared to a trained seal). Maazel was only 11 when he conducted the NBC Sym. Orch. (1941) and 12 when he led an entire program with the N.Y. Phil. (1942). He survived these traumatic exhibitions, and took academic courses at the Univ. of Pittsburgh. In 1948 he joined the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch. as a violinist, and at the same time was appointed its apprentice conductor. In 1951 he received a Fulbright fellowship for travel in Italy, where he undertook a serious study of Baroque music; he also made his adult debut as a conductor in Catania on Dec. 23, 1953. In 1955 he conducted at the Florence May Festival, in 1957 at the Vienna Festival, and in 1958 at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1960 he became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival, where he led performances of Lohengrin. In 1962 he toured the U.S. with the Orchestre National de France. On Nov. 1, 1962, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. conducting Don Giovanni.From 1965 to 1971 he was artistic director of the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin; from 1965 to 1975 he also served as chief conductor of the (West) Berlin Radio Sym. Orch. He was assoc. principal conductor of the New Philharmonia Orch. of London from 1970 to 1972, and its principal guest conductor from 1976 to 1980. In 1972 he became music director of the Cleveland Orch., a position he held with great distinction until 1982; was then made conductor emeritus. He led the Cleveland Orch. on 10 major tours abroad, including Australia and New Zealand (1973), Japan (1974), twice in Latin America, and twice in Europe, and maintained its stature as one of the world’s foremost orchs. He was also chief conductor of the Orchestre National de France from 1977 to 1982; then was its principal guest conductor until 1988, and then its music director until 1991. In 1980 he became conductor of the famous Vienna Phil. New Year’s Day Concerts, a position he retained until 1986. In 1982 he assumed the positions of artistic director and general manager of the Vienna State Opera, the first American to be so honored; however, he resigned these positions in the middle of his 4-year contract in 1984 after a conflict over artistic policies with the Ministry of Culture. He then served as music consultant to the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch. (1984–86); was its music adviser and principal guest conductor in 1986, becoming its music director that same year. In 1993 he also assumed the post of chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Sym. Orch. in Munich. In 1994 he again conducted the Vienna Phil. New Year’s Day Concert. In 1996 he stepped down as music director of the Pittsburgh Sym. Orch. after a notably distinguished tenure.
Maazel is equally adept as an interpreter of operatic and symphonic scores; he is blessed with a phenomenal memory, and possesses an extraordinary baton technique. He also maintains an avid interest in nonmusical pursuits; a polyglot, he is fluent in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Maazel was the recipient of many awards; he received an honorary doctorate from the Univ. of Pittsburgh in 1965, the Sibelius Prize in Finland, the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit from West Germany, and, for his numerous recordings, the Grand Prix de Disque in Paris and the Edison Prize in the Netherlands.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
MAAZEL, LORIN (Varencove ; 1930– ), conductor, violinist, and composer. Born in France, Maazel studied violin and piano in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, and conducting with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff. Between the ages of nine and 15, Maazel conducted many of the great American and Canadian orchestras. In 1945, he entered the University of Pittsburgh to study philosophy, languages, and mathematics. While a student, he was a violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Maazel made his European conducting debut in Italy in 1953. In 1960, his performance of Mahler was acclaimed for its scrupulous articulation and expressive power. The same year he was the first American and the youngest conductor ever to conduct at the Bayreuth festival. Soon after, he was being referred to as a "legend in his own time." Maazel conducted 5,000 opera and concert performances with over 150 leading orchestras around the world and held such prestigious posts as artistic director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1965–71), music director of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra (1965–75), and music director of the Cleveland Orchestra (1972–82). He also conducted the Orchestre National de France, the Vienna Vienna Staatsoper, and the Pittsburgh Symphony. He was music director of the New York po from the 2002–03 season. His latter-day operatic productions were at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Royal Opera House (London), and La Scala (Milan), and he became involved in film opera productions. His discography encompasses over 300 recordings including the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky, and around 40 operas. Maazel gave benefit concerts for international organizations such as unicef and the International Red Cross. The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden awarded him with their highest honors. He was named an honorary life member of the Israel Philharmonic in 1985 when he conducted their 40th anniversary concert. Among his publications are "Vom Herzen: Moge es wieder zu Herzen gehn" (in Die 9 Symphonien Beethovens: Entstehung, Deutung, Wirkung, 1994).
Grove online; Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1997); I. Geleng. Lorin Maazel: Monographie eines Musikers (1971); L. Knessl. Wiener Staatsoper: Die Direktion Lorin Maazel. (1984).
[Naama Ramot / (2nd ed.)]