Japan’s Seiji Ozawa, one of the most famous orchestral conductors of his generation, died of heart failure on Tuesday at the age of 88, public broadcaster NHK announced on Friday.
The Chinese-born Mr. Ozawa, who spent decades in the solemn atmosphere of the world’s top orchestras, wears a baseball-themed tie to interviews and prefers to be called by his first name rather than “Maestro.” I liked it.
His bushy hair and smile captivated audiences, especially in the United States, and his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra spanned nearly 30 years.
In 2020, the city of Boston declared Seiji Ozawa’s birthday, September 1st, as “Seiji Ozawa Day,” and Ozawa was happy to call Boston his second home.
“That was a really important time in my life,” he was quoted as saying. “No matter where I go, Boston is a part of my heart.”
Years later, the unassuming Ozawa returned to Tokyo and was sometimes spotted on subway platforms wearing the jacket and hat of his beloved Boston Red Sox baseball team, stopping to chat with fans.
“I was the opposite of a genius and always had to strive,” he said at a 2014 press conference.
“I don’t really like studying, but if I wanted to make music I had to study. Any genius can easily do it better than me.”
His work at the Vienna State Opera was overshadowed by poor health, including being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010, the year he retired.
He later underwent surgery for a back injury and suffered from bouts of pneumonia, often forcing him to miss games, but this did not dampen his enthusiasm.
In a December 2013 interview, wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball tie and black jacket, Ozawa told Reuters, “I will continue to do everything I’ve ever done, which is teach and conduct orchestras, until the day I die.” Told.
According to Ozawa, the benefit of the breaks was that he could study music, talk with friends such as Japanese best-selling author Haruki Murakami, and have free time to think.
“I always looked ahead, because if I didn’t forget the piece I conducted in one concert, I wouldn’t be able to prepare for the next one,” he wrote in a 2014 essay for the Nikkei Shimbun. .
“I never looked back. I just didn’t have enough time.”
The third of four children, Ozawa was born in 1935 in Shenyang, China, where his father, a dentist, had settled. They then moved to Beijing.
His mother, who was a Christian, took him to church to sing hymns, and the family sometimes sang at home to the accompaniment of a brother on the accordion.
“That was how I discovered music,” he later wrote.
The family returned to Japan in 1941 with only a few clothes, a photo album, and an accordion, and Ozawa began learning to play the piano. When he sprained his finger playing rugby and was unable to continue, he turned to coaching.
In 1959, Ozawa departed for Europe on a cargo ship and spent two months arriving in France, where he decided to try his hand at the Young Conductors Competition in Besancon.
He won, which opened doors all over the world and allowed him to work with greats such as Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein.
He also worked in Toronto, San Francisco, and Singapore. He became director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973, beginning a 29-year relationship.
An avid sports fan, Ozawa’s heart was in Boston, with the Red Sox, New England Patriots football team, and Celtics basketball team.
Although Ozawa devoted his time to teaching – he held weekly classes for children in Boston, where everyone called him “Sage” – his passion lay in the cultivation of Japanese classical music, where he He launched a summer music festival in Matsumoto City and named it “Sage.” His first teacher was Hideo Saito.