VIENNA (Reuters) - Tributes poured in from the classical music world on Monday for Lorin Maazel, considered one of the most brilliant conductors of his generation, who died on Sunday at the age of 84.
A child prodigy who later directed the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic among others, Maazel died at his home in Virginia from complications of pneumonia.
The Berlin Philharmonic, which he conducted regularly and had been due to conduct again in June, wrote on its website: “We are very sad that this reunion is no longer possible.”
“We will remember Lorin Maazel as a great conductor, and we have grateful, lively memories of him as a master of energetic music-making with a timbral sensuality.”
Maazel was born in Paris in 1930 to American parents of Russian origin, learned to play the piano and violin, and conducted orchestras including the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the Idaho Orchestra before he was a teenager.
His sharp ear for mistakes earned him the respect of older musicians and he combined an acclaimed baton technique with a memory that meant he rarely used scores.
Associated with most of the world’s great orchestras, Maazel’s hundreds of recordings included the cycles of the Beethoven, Mahler and Sibelius symphonies.
He was the first American to become general manager and artistic director of the Vienna State Opera, in 1982, but fell out with the then culture minister and left after two years.
Current opera director Dominique Meyer said in a statement late on Sunday: “Lorin Maazil’s death is for us a great artistic and human loss. We are however thankful for the many impressions which he left behind, and which will stay with us.”
In 2008, Maazel took the New York Philharmonic to perform in North Korea in a concert aimed at opening a door to one of the world’s most isolated countries.
An audience of North Korea’s communist elite gave the orchestra a standing ovation after a rousing set that included Dvorak, Gershwin and a Korean folk song. Some of the musicians were so overcome they left the stage in tears.
“Little did we know that we would be thrown into orbit by this stunning, stunning reaction,” Maazel said after the performance.
In 2009, Maazel founded the Castleton Festival, an annual summer event on his Virginia farm, where he held performances and training seminars.
He had been rehearsing and preparing for the festival when he died on Sunday.
Maazel is survived by his wife Dietlinde and their two sons and a daughter, three daughters and a son from previous marriages, and four grandchildren.
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Vienna and Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Susan Fenton