1993 – 2002: Lorin Maazel
He ranked world-wide as one of the greatest conductors of his time: Lorin Maazel. He was the first classical artist in Germany to receive a platinum record. From 1993 to 2002, he shaped the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks as its fourth Chief Conductor. Critics had always admired him for his powerful memory, musicality, precise stick technique and his stylistic security. “He is certainly a genius – a genius with every quality that designation implies. With his technical perfection he communicated an unshakable sense of security to the orchestra”, said double bassist Otmar Kopold. Lorin Maazel was well-known for the precision with which he prepared his rehearsals and concerts, because he believed: “nobody can deliver an emotional interpretation without an absolutely secure technical foundation.”
And he demanded the same level of professionalism from the musicians in the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. Under his guidance, they learned to work quickly and attentively, to be more flexible thus enabling them to make a vast repertoire their own in the shortest time. And despite these high technical demands, Maazel still managed to turn every concert into an incomparable experience.
Like his predecessors, Lorin Maazel also led the orchestra on a number of tours. Guest appearances in the most important concert halls in the world again manifested the the orchestra’s international reputation as a major ensemble. One particular highlight was the world premiere of Penderecki’s monumental work: “The Seven Gates of Jerusalem” commemorating the 3,000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem in 1987.
Like a retrospective in the fine arts, Maazel set new accents in programming with large-scale composer cycles. Projects of this kind are rare because not many conductors will venture to present a concentrated concert series covering the work of a single composer – a challenge to mind and body. Munich audiences enthusiastically responded to the cyclic performances of symphonic works by Beethoven (1995 and 2000), Brahms (1998), Strauss (1998), Mozart and Bruckner (1999) as well as Schubert (2001). As the crowning conclusion of his of his time in Munich, in 2002 he followed these up with a Mahler cycle.
After his contract with Bavarian Broadcasting expired in 2002, Maazel wanted to devote more of his energies to composing and playing the violin. Then, however, he received a call to become Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. His contract in that metropolis ran until the end of the 2009/2009 season. Starting in 2012, Lorin Maazel then assumed the helm of the Munich Philharmonic, resigning that post, however, in mid-June of 2014 because of ill health.
A Career of Superlatives
Lorin Maazel was born in 1930 as the son of American parents of Russian extraction near Paris. An extraordinary musicality was virtually placed in his cradle along with an outstanding intelligence. His father was a singer, his mother a pianist, his grandfather served as concert master in Moscow, then later at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He began studying the violin as early as the age of five. Two years later he began playing the piano, and laid the foundation for his orchestral conducting career with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff in Pittsburgh. At the age of eight he mounted the podium for the first time to lead a student orchestra conducting Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. “Little Maazel” rapidly became a national attraction. Even Arturo Toscanini invited the eleven‑year‑old maestro to lead two concerts with the NBC Symphony.
Football and Schopenhauer
The child prodigy regarded his childhood as stress-free. For him, it went without saying that he would conduct some ten concerts a season, play hearty matches of football, and read Mickey Mouse and Schopenhauer. At sixteen he founded the “Fine Arts String Quartet of Pittsburgh”, and he became concert master of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He regarded his time at college, where he studied mathematics, philosophy, languages and literature, as an education for “real life”. He even considered becoming a writer. But his love for music finally won the day.
Great Role Models
A number of encounters with contemporary composers such as Hartmann, Dallapiccola, Strawinsky, Hindemith, Rachmaninov as well as the great conductors Toscanini and de Sabata left an indelible impression on Maazel as a musician and composer. Later then, Maazel passed along what he had learned from these great artists. Working with young musicians and rehearsing with youth orchestras were a source of great joy for him. Up and coming young musicians and composers profited from his wealth of knowledge. In his breathtaking career, there is hardly a famous orchestra he did not conduct. With his extensive work schedule he even served in several posts and positions simultaneously.