'Child Prodigy' Conductor Dies at 84

Lorin Maazel's glittering career spanned 75 years

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 14, 2014 1:43 AM CDT

(Newser) – The controversial but undeniably brilliant conductor Lorin Maazel has died at the age of 84—some 75 years after he began conducting orchestras as a 9-year-old child prodigy. Maazel, who conducted an average of two orchestras a week during his long career and performed with more than 200 orchestras, died of pneumonia at his farm in Virginia yesterday, reports the Los Angeles Times. He resigned with a "heavy heart" as music director of the Munich Philharmonic last month because of health concerns, but was still preparing for his annual Castleton Festival summer series.

Maazel, born in Paris to American parents in 1930, was recognized early on as a prodigy and conducted most of the major American orchestras before he was 15, NPR reports. Throughout his career, his perfomances could seem "coolly fastidious and emotionally distant," writes Allan Kozinn at the New York Times, "yet such performances were regularly offset by others that were fiery and intensely personalized." Among his many high-profile jobs, he was the first American to be principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera, and he served as director of the New York Philharmonic—which he led in a 2008 visit to North Korea—for seven years. "I never thought conducting could be a career," he said a few years ago. "It became one. It's been a long and interesting road, and I've had a very full, rich and marvelous life doing things I wanted to do. I took four sabbaticals, learned many languages, traveled extensively and had a very rich personal life."

Lorin Maazel, then musical director of the New York Philharmonic, is seen during a rehearsal in Seoul, South Korea in 2008.   (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File)
In this photo released by the New York Philharmonic, Lorin Maazel conducts the orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, Thursday, June 25, 2009 in New York.   (AP Photo/New York Philharmonic, Chris Lee)
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