Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphonic Orchestra’s longest-tenured director, dies at 88

Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphonic Orchestra’s longest-tenured director, dies at 88
via Movime, Seiji Ozawa
Bryan Ke
February 13, 2024
World-renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa, who served as a director in the Boston Symphonic Orchestra (BSO) for 29 years, has died at 88.
What happened: Ozawa died from heart failure in his home in Tokyo on Feb. 6. A private funeral was already held for Ozawa, but his family is considering holding a farewell party for him at a later date, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Tributes and condolences: The BSO paid tribute to Ozawa after its concert on Friday at the Symphony Hall. Speaking in front of the audience, BSO President and CEO Chad Smith said in part, “Seiji will be deeply missed and there’s a particular sadness in the finality that he will never walk this stage again. But at his core, Seiji was a teacher and the lessons he taught live on in the players on this stage.”

“All of us at the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy will continue to inherit the spirit that Seiji Ozawa dedicated to music and strive to create music that lives up to his name,” the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy, which Ozawa co-founded with the late businessman Kenichiro Sato to nurture future musicians, wrote in a statement on Saturday.
His early career: Born in Manchuria, China while it was still under Japanese occupation on Sept. 1, 1935, Ozawa and his family returned to Japan in 1944 and later studied under Japanese cellist and conductor Hideo Saito.

Ozawa attended Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, after moving to the United States in 1960. Leonard Bernstein appointed him as assistant conductor for the New York Philharmonic in 1961 and later worked as a director of the San Francisco Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
Longest-tenured director: Ozawa was tapped to lead the BSO as its music director from 1973 to 2002, making him the longest-tenured director in the orchestra’s history, surpassing Serge Koussevitzky’s 25-year tenure.
His notable works: The late Japanese conductor earned two Emmy awards for his TV work with the BSO, notably for the PBS series “Evening at Symphony,” in 1976 and another in 1994 for “Dvorak in Prague: A Celebration.”

He conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra while it performed Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture live for astronaut Koichi Wakata, who was aboard the International Space Station, on Dec. 1, 2022. The performance was part of the “One Earth Mission – Unite With Music” with the Japan Aerospace and Exploration Agency.
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