Acclaimed Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa dies aged 88

9 February 2024, 12:54

Japan Seiji Ozawa
Japan Seiji Ozawa. Picture: PA

Ozawa led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002, longer than any other conductor in the orchestra’s 128-year history.

World-renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa has died of heart failure at his home in Tokyo, his management said. He was 88.

The acclaimed Japanese maestro led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) from 1973 to 2002, longer than any other conductor in the orchestra’s 128-year history.

From 2002 to 2010, he was music director of the Vienna State Opera.

Japan Obit Ozawa
Seiji Ozawa conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, at Symphony Hall, in Boston, in 2008 (Steven Senne/AP)

He won two Emmys for television work with the BSO.

When Ozawa conducted the Boston orchestra in 2006 for the first time since he left four years before, he received a hero’s welcome with a nearly six-minute ovation.

Japan Obit Ozawa
Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Japan in 1978 (Kyodo News via AP)

Ozawa was also the artistic director and founder of the Saito Kinen Festival, Japan’s music and opera festival.

He remained active in his later years, particularly in his native land. He was the artistic director and founder of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, a music and opera festival in Japan.

He and the Saito Kinen Orchestra, which he co-founded in 1984, won the Grammy for best opera recording in 2016 for Ravel’s L’Enfant et Les Sortileges (The Child and the Spells).

In 2022, he conducted his Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival for the first time in three years to mark its 30th anniversary. That turned out to be his last public performance.

Ozawa exerted enormous influence over the BSO during his tenure. He appointed 74 of its 104 musicians and his celebrity attracted famous performers including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.

He also helped the symphony become the biggest-budget orchestra in the world, with an endowment that grew from less than 10 million dollars £8 million) in the early 1970s to more than 200 million dollars (£158 million) in 2002.

Ozawa died on Tuesday at his Tokyo home, according to his management office, Veroza Japan.

His funeral was attended only by close relatives as his family wished to have a quiet farewell, his office said.

By Press Association

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