Tributes to Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) – from Edward Clark, Plácido Domingo, JoAnn Falletta, Tony Faulkner, Gillian Moore, David Whelton, and the New York Philharmonic, Orfeo, and the Salzburg Festival

Written by: various contributors, posted 20 July 2014, with later additions

Maestro Lorin Maazel

6 March 1930-13 July 2014

Edward Clark, President of the UK Sibelius Society

Lorin Maazel conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms 2013. Photograph: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Lovers of Sibelius’s music have much to thank Lorin Maazel for. In the 1960s and 1970s, when Sibelius‘s reputation was in the doldrums, Maazel recorded the symphony cycle for Decca. Not only did he place on record his thoughts on the music but he went to Vienna to do so. This was a brave act. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra had been hostile to Sibelius since the end of the war. There is a story that the Fourth Symphony was in rehearsal in the late-1940s but the players refused point blank to perform this work in concert. The resulting recording remains a bench-mark. It benefits too from the supreme quality of sound that so enhances the overall impression of the peculiar Sibelian sonority. For me it is a favourite cycle among the many available.

Maazel conducted the cycle in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra a few years after the Decca release. This refreshed the symphonic repertoire for audiences not used to hearing Sibelius in concert, apart from two or three favourites. In the early-1990s Maazel revisited the symphony cycle with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, issued by Sony Classical. As with many conductors growing older there is a gradual slowing in tempo. (The Seventh Symphony takes 26 minutes!) There is also a natural loss in spontaneity from the acts of discovery in Vienna. But it is still a notable achievement.

Maazel regularly included Sibelius in his numerous London concerts over the past 50 years or so. Whereas he has been criticised in certain repertoire for being too studied, his way with the Finnish master has long struck me as being rich in gravitas and depth. No one achieves perfection in the overall interpretation of Sibelius’s greatest orchestral music but Lorin Maazel is certainly up with the best interpreters I have ever heard over the last half-century.

Plácido Domingo

I am deeply saddened by the death of Lorin Maazel, one of the most significant conductors of his generation. His brilliant mind, which allowed him to conduct a vast repertoire, was known to everyone in the world of classical music, and he was as much at home in the opera house as in the concert hall – not to mention the fact that he was an accomplished violinist and composer.

I had the opportunity to work with him on many occasions that were important to me in my career – first in the recording studio, especially in several Puccini operas, and then in the theater, beginning with a memorable series of performances of Verdi’s Luisa Miller at Covent Garden in 1979. We did La Fanciulla Del West at the Teatro alla Scala. He also conducted the sound tracks for the film versions of Carmen, directed by Francesco Rosi, and La Traviata, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, in which I participated.

Lorin will be greatly missed by all of us who knew him, and I extend my deepest condolences to Dietlinde, his wife, and to his children.

JoAnn Falletta, Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and Virginia Symphony orchestras

Lorin Maazel at a bust unveiling, Vienna, 2013. Photograph: Wiener Staatsoper GmbH

I would like to add my voice to the millions of musicians and music lovers who are grieving the passing of Maestro Lorin Maazel. As a New Yorker I had the great privilege of attending his concerts with the Philharmonic, and was always inspired by his extraordinary technique, his amazing memory and his unique and powerful music-making. Equally inspiring to me is the legacy of his stewardship of young musicians. At his home in Virginia, Maestro Maazel created a musical haven for musicians at the Castleton Festival, and also championed many young conductors at the beginnings of their careers. His astounding brilliance was nothing short of genius, and Maestro Maazel will always be remembered as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Tony Faulkner, recording engineer and producer

The loss of Lorin Maazel will be felt around the globe, not only in his native USA – by musicians, colleagues as well as audiences. I attended two of his most recent Philharmonia Orchestra Mahler concerts in London and the integrity and presence were still very strongly impressive and captivating. Lorin was an iconic maestro fully worthy of both terms and my first meeting with him was in Vienna in 1984 for the CBS recording of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. This repertoire was very much home territory for Maestro Maazel and the recorded performance was and remains a landmark not least for its integrity, freshness and vitality. We worked on further Maazel projects not only in Vienna but also in Berlin and Milan, including recording Verdi’s Otello (with Plácido Domingo) for EMI Classics.

The recording industry has changed dramatically since 1984 especially in terms of the technology and facilitation of technical ‘dirty tricks’ and lazy practices in editing, mixing and post-production, but such practices are not what the listener acquires with a Maazel recording. Lorin was above expecting recording producers and engineers to do his job for him, which demanded respect from old-school engineers like me. There is, in my experience, no way to twiddle control-room knobs and adjust plug-ins to achieve real concert-hall tension in dynamics, balances and textures. Lorin was fully aware of this and wanted to be in charge of such decisions, which ultimately made one’s job a lot easier than it can be in more recent times.

Sadly, Maestro Maazel may have left us as far as future concerts are concerned, but his recordings have the atmosphere and gravity of real performance rather than the plastic substitute we hear too often. He has left us a massive legacy of recorded excellence and an important component of any collection of classical recorded music. Sympathies are due to Lorin’s wife Dietlinde and to his children and grandchildren.

Gillian Moore, Head of Classical Music at Southbank Centre

It’s hard to believe that the extraordinary musical force that is Lorin Maazel is extinguished. He was with us so recently, conducting the Philharmonia magnificently. A prodigious talent.

David Whelton, Managing Director, Philharmonia Orchestra (London)

Lorin Maazel with Otto Klemperer. Photograph: Philharmonia Orchestra

There is a photograph in the Philharmonia Orchestra archive of Lorin Maazel and Otto Klemperer together at the Royal Festival Hall in London, engaged in deep conversation. It is an image that in many ways defined both Maazel’s life and that of the Philharmonia Orchestra itself: Maazel’s career spanned virtually the life of the Philharmonia, and his deep respect for the middle European musical tradition that Klemperer embodied, remained at the foundation of his music-making, as it remains at the heart of the Philharmonia’s approach and “sound”.

The Philharmonia formed an important part of Lorin Maazel’s early career, initially thanks to Walter Legge. Maazel first conducted the Philharmonia in concert on 20 June1959 and was a regular guest from the early 1960s onwards, which led to his appointment as Associate Principal Conductor in 1970 towards the end of Klemperer’s tenure with the Orchestra. During this time his music-making became renowned for its clarity, control, integrity and sheer brilliance, achieved through his absolute command of the Orchestra.

In the decades that followed, Maazel took his place among the greatest Maestros of the age, leading many of music’s greatest institutions with characteristic panache. He set himself the highest standards, refusing to suffer fools; but no-one could be more generous to musicians in their time of need, or more supportive to young musicians – or in my case, young orchestra managers. He was extraordinarily generous to me professionally over many years, giving of his time and sharing his wisdom and his knowledge of the Philharmonia’s history. He would invite me to his box at La Scala and talk to me about the Legge era in particular; these conversations gave me a profound respect for and understanding of what the Philharmonia stood for in history.

His prodigious intelligence and total recall is well known; but both qualities were always put to good use, and combined with his staggeringly clear conducting technique, creating total confidence among the orchestral musicians he worked with. They knew exactly what he wanted. He was also astonishingly well-read, and one of the greatest pleasures for me was to find a novel that he didn’t know as a thank you gift for another fabulous series of concerts with the Philharmonia. And then to receive an email letting me know how much he had enjoyed reading it. He was passionate about the theatre, and whenever I met him at the airport the first thing he would say to me was, “David, what should I see?”.

We were fortunate enough to be with Maazel for his last Mahler Cycle in 2011, which travelled to major international concert halls across Europe and the Far East, as well as to UK venues from Hull to Manchester and from Bristol to Basingstoke, Maazel giving 100% of himself to every single performance, and treating every audience with the utmost respect. It is intensely satisfying that we were able to capture the Cycle on CD – the first six symphonies were released earlier this year to wide acclaim, and symphonies 7-9 will follow later in 2014.

Maazel was one of the great conductors of Richard Strauss and it was natural that we turned to him when we started planning the Philharmonia Orchestra’s celebrations for 2014. I felt that the three works that stood out for me were the Alpine Symphony, with its extraordinary grandeur; Also sprach Zarathustra – no-one understood the monumental Strauss better than Maazel; and Till Eulenspiegel, in which his virtuosity as a conductor would be matched by the virtuosity of the Philharmonia musicians. The performances, at the end of March, were everything we hoped for, and received standing ovations in the Royal Festival Hall. After the performance of the Alpine Symphony and Also sprach he sat backstage analysing tone rows in the third part of the latter, comparing them by playing them on the piano alongside Berg and Schoenberg’s use of the same technique. Then he started analysing and demonstrating the final movement of Mozart’s ‘Jupiter’ Symphony. His intellectual thirst was as strong as it had ever been.

With so many recent memories of Lorin Maazel at his most intellectually curious, searching and altogether vital, it goes without saying that it comes as a huge shock to all of us at the Philharmonia Orchestra to learn of his untimely death. I was in direct correspondence with him by email just 48 hours before we heard the news; he was discussing the Orchestra’s planned visit to Castleton next year, and his concerts planned for the Royal Festival Hall with us in 2015 and 2016 – which were all to be of epic proportions, the like of which only Maazel could have programmed. There was no musician quite like Lorin Maazel, and he is utterly irreplaceable, in many, many ways. We will all miss him more than we can say. [Mr Whelton’s tribute was written for the Philharmonia Orchestra’s website and is reproduced on Classical Source with permission]

New York Philharmonic

The New York Philharmonic mourns the passing of Lorin Maazel, Music Director of the New York Philharmonic from 2002 to 2009. The Philharmonic will dedicate its free concert in Central Park on Monday, July 14 to Maestro Maazel, performing Barber’s Adagio for Strings, conducted by Music Director Alan Gilbert, in honor of the late conductor, composer, violinist, and friend of the Philharmonic. Our thoughts are with Lorin Maazel’s family and friends at this time.

“I am deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lorin Maazel’s death,” said New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert. “For decades he was a major force in the musical world, and truly an inspiration for generations of American musicians. Personally, I am grateful to him, not only for the brilliant state of the Orchestra that I inherited from him, but for the support and encouragement he extended to me when I took over his responsibilities. All of us in the New York Philharmonic family send our love and sympathy to his family.” [This statement reproduced on Classical Source with permission]

A message from Orfeo

We all are sad that Lorin Maazel passed away. He has been one of the last great conductors of his generation who really leaves a great gap as an artist and personality. I had been lucky to attend his very last concert in Munich although I did not know at that time and could not imagine to have been witness of this last performance in Munich. ORFEO is happy to have released two CDs with Maazel from the Vienna State Opera and on concert he conducted at the Salzburg Festival. We will miss him. Christiane Delank.

The Salzburg Festival Mourns Lorin Maazel’s Passing

July 14, 2014 (SF) The American conductor and composer Lorin Maazel, born in 1930 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, passed away yesterday (Sunday) at the age of 84. For five decades, he was closely connected to the Salzburg Festival.
119 performances, 83 operas among them, reflect the entire breadth – or rather, depth – of his repertoire. Together with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra Prague, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra he created musical events of unforgettable quality. His interpretations of the operas Elektra, Don Carlo, Der Rosenkavalier, Tristan und Isolde as well as many others at the Salzburg Festival stand out as particularly memorable.

Lorin Maazel was one of the charismatic conductor personalities who helped forge the Salzburg Festival’s outstanding reputation throughout the world. Between 1963 and 2013 he gave us many unforgettable opera and concert evenings. “This began on July 29, 1963 with Le nozze di Figaro, the premiere which re-opened the Kleines Festspielhaus. He himself called this a turning point in his life. Sadly, it ended on August 30, 2013 with a wonderful concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, honouring the anniversary of Richard Wagner. The Festival remembers him with enormous gratitude,” Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler and Artistic Director Alexander Pereira commented on Lorin Maazel’s passing.

“In Lorin Maazel, the music world has lost not only one of the most important conductors of our times, but also a great personality who shaped the Salzburg Festival and gave Salzburg’s audiences numerous unforgettable moments,” said Landeshauptmann Wilfried Haslauer, currently the Chairman of the Salzburg Festival’s Supervisory Board. [Statement re-published with permission]

A postscript from Colin Anderson, Editor of The Classical Source

In May 2007 I attended a New York Philharmonic concert in Paris. It included a Maazel speciality, Stravinsky’s Song of the Nightingale, given a virtually perfect performance; jaw-dropping playing and a conducting masterclass rolled into one, the music brought vividly to life. A year later I had the pleasure of interviewing Lorin Maazel (linked to below). It was a meeting easy to arrange, through his representatives, and he knew full well that he would be appearing on a website called Classical Source and was delighted to do so (enlightened). When we met he gave me a generous amount of time to talk, during which he entered into a full conversation and with no little humour.

In what must now be considered his last years, some of the concerts he conducted with the Philharmonia Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall (Southbank Centre, London) were astonishing. I think in particular of a rigorous and resolute account of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, an emotionally draining one of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’, an almighty Heaven-opening outing for Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and – as recently as March this year – a remarkably expansive view of Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony, mesmerising for every second of the (unprecedented) 67 minutes that it took.

Following that concert (which concluded with Zarathustra) I took a friend backstage so that he could show Maazel a Philharmonia programme from 1962 (or thereabouts), a paper record of another Strauss evening (Metamorphosen, Zarathustra, Till Eulenspiegel and Tod und Verklärung). “Did I do all that?”, Maazel enquired, then asked my friend his name and duly autographed the souvenir, as requested. I am pleased that I was able to see Maestro Maazel one more time in person – not that he had any cause to remember me! – and to praise his conducting of Alpine Symphony, which in return received a modest “thank you”.

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