American conductor Lorin Maazel has died at the age of 84 from ‘complications following pneumonia’, said a statement released on 13 July by the Castleton Festival, the festival he founded in 2009 with his wife Dietlinde.
Beginning his conducting career in the 1950s, and in 1960 becoming the first American to conduct at Bayreuth, Maazel worked in the upper echelons of the conducting world for many decades.
He held directorial positions at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (1965-71), Vienna State Opera (1982-84), Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1988-96), Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1993-2000) and New York Philharmonic Orchestra (2002-2009).
He was a regular guest conductor with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, of which he was a former associate principal conductor.
A statement by the Philharmonia said: ‘We are very saddened to hear the news of the death of our former associate principal conductor and honorary member, Maestro Lorin Maazel, whose relationship with the Philharmonia Orchestra spanned more than 50 years and many extraordinary concerts and recordings.
‘We have wonderful memories of what became his final concerts with us in March this year, celebrating the Strauss anniversary. His contribution to the life and work of the orchestra was inestimable and his outstanding professionalism and superb musicianship ensured that every concert he gave with the Philharmonia was an unforgettable occasion.’
Reviews of his March concerts described ‘a big, brash, heavyweight concert’, with Maazel’s conducting ‘measured and methodical’. ‘The ascent of the mountain in Eine Alpensymphonie was dogged, the view from the top almost blinding, the storm on the way down truly thunderous,’ said the Financial Times.
However, in recent months ill-health had led him to withdraw from his directorship of the Munich Philharmonic, which had prepared a 2014/15 season celebrating his 85th birthday.
In an appearance on 28 June at the opening night of this year’s Castleton Festival, which is currently underway and which organisers said will continue, Maazel described working with its orchestra and singers as ‘more than a labor of love ‒ a labor of joy.’