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Conductor Seiji Ozawa Dies At 88

By Sara Schabas on February 12, 2024

Seiji Ozawa
Seiji Ozawa (Photo: Decca Classics Michiharu Okubu)

On February 6th, the Seiji Ozawa International Academy in Switzerland announced the death of its namesake, the legendary conductor Seiji Ozawa. Ozawa died of heart failure in Tokyo.

Catch-up: Born in Japanese-occupied China in 1935, Seiji Ozawa studied under Herbert Von Karajan in West Berlin after winning a competition at the Tanglewood Music Festival. In subsequent years, he caught the attention of Leonard Bernstein, who appointed Ozawa as his assistant at the New York Philharmonic. Ozawa went on to become the music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (1965-1969), the Ravinia Festival (1964-1968), the San Francisco Symphony (1970-1976), the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1973-2002), and the Vienna State Opera (2002-2010).

Why it matters: Seiji Ozawa is remembered as one of the century’s most acclaimed conductors, who also helped to pave the way for Asian musicians in the world of classical music. Ozawa was aware of his impact on the perception of Asian musicians in his Western-dominated field and considered himself a pioneer.

Those looking to catch up on Ozawa’s impact can listen to any of his acclaimed recordings, catch his Sesame Street appearances, or even read his conversations with the famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. RIP, Maestro.

Sara Schabas
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