Born in 1935 in Shenyang, China, Seiji Ozawa studied music from an early age and later graduated with first prizes in both composition and conducting from Tokyo’s Toho School of Music. In 1959 he won first prize at the International Competition of Orchestra Conductors in Besançon, France, where he came to the attention of Charles Munch, then the Boston Symphony music director, who invited him to Tanglewood, where he won the Koussevitzky Prize as outstanding student conductor in 1960. While working with Herbert von Karajan in West Berlin, Mr. Ozawa came to the attention of Leonard Bernstein, who appointed him assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for the 1961-62 season.
He made his first professional concert appearance in North America in January 1962, with the San Francisco Symphony. He was music director of the Ravinia Festival, summer home of the Chicago Symphony (1964-69), music director of the Toronto Symphony (1965-1969) and music director of the San Francisco Symphony (1970-1976).
He first conducted the Boston Symphony in 1964 at Tanglewood and made his first winter subscription appearance with them in 1968. He was named Artistic Director of Tanglewood in 1970, Music Director of the Boston Symphony in 1973, leaving a legacy of brilliant achievement evidenced through touring, award-winning recordings (more than 140 works of more than 50 composers on 10 labels), television productions (winning 2 Emmy awards), and commissioned works.
Through his many recordings, television appearances, and worldwide touring, Mo. Ozawa is an internationally recognized celebrity. In recent years, the many honors and achievements bestowed upon Mr. Ozawa have underscored his esteemed standing in the international music scene. French President Jacques Chirac named him (1999) Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the Sorbonne (2004) awarded him Doctorate Honoris Causa and he has been honored as “Musician of the Year” by Musical America.
February 1998 saw him fulfilling a longtime ambition of joining musicians around the globe: he led the Opening Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, conducting the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with the SKO and six choruses located on five different continents – Japan, Australia, China, Germany, South Africa, and the United States – all linked by satellite. He received Japan’s first-ever Inouye Award (1994), named after Japan’s pre-eminent novelist, recognizing lifetime achievement in the arts. 1994 also saw the inauguration of the new and acclaimed Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. Mo. Ozawa also has been awarded honorary degrees from Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts, Wheaton College, and the New England Conservatory of Music. (more here)
Seiji Ozawa is back on the beat
The Japanese conductor, stricken with cancer of the oesophagus and several bouts of pneumonia over the ast three years, made his return to the podium in Tokyo on Wednesday night. It was a short appearance – a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Stings with 25 young musicians from his summer academy – and he had to take a short break after the first movement.
But the show’s the thing. Seiji, 77, is determined to get back to work.
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