Lorin Maazel, a world-renowned conductor and composer who began his career as a child prodigy, died on July 13, 2014 at his home in Castleton Farms, Virginia. He was 84.
The cause of death was complications of pneumonia, according to a statement by The Castleton Festival, an annual festival Maazel founded with his wife in 2009. Maazel had been rehearsing and preparing for the festival at the time of his death. He founded the festival to mentor young musicians and to bring new energy to classical music.
Maazel's "leadership and imaginative programming and performances brought inspiration and joy to Cleveland Orchestra audiences around the world," the orchestra wrote in its website, "his importance in our history will be forever remembered."
Maazel's death came a month after he resigned with a "heavy heart" from his position as music director of the Munich Philharmonic, citing health difficulties. At the time he thanked his "literally millions of fans" who had asked him to keep conducting.
Maazel was born in Paris on March 6, 1930, to American parents who studied there. He was a dazzling prodigy. At 5, he took his first violin lesson. At 7, he began studying conducting under Russian maestro Vladimir Bakaleinikoff. At 12, he got his first steady conducting job. At 16, the young conductor entered the University of Pittsburgh to study language, mathematics and philosophy and played the violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony to help pay his tuition. He was fluent in six languages.
In his lifetime, Maazel guided nearly 200 orchestras in at least 7,000 opera and concert performances, according to a biography posted on his website. He was known for his relentless energy and passion for precision.
Maazel served as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1972 to 1982. During that time, he conducted over 760 performances, produced over 30 recordings together, and led the group on 10 international tours.
Maazel was the first American who held the position of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Vienna State Opera during 1982-1984. He served as music director for Pittsburgh Symphony (1988-1996) and the Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio (1993-2002). In 2002, he became the music director of the New York Philharmonic, America's oldest orchestra. He served for seven years and conducted the orchestra on their landmark visit to Pyongyang, North Korea on 26 February 2008.
"I am deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lorin Maazel's death. For decades he was a major force in the musical world, and truly an inspiration for generations of American musicians," the present music director of New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert, said in an emailed statement.