Listen: Honoring Seiji Ozawa on His 81st Birthday
Thursday, September 01, 2016
"He was born to conduct. Absolutely born to conduct," says Boston Symphony Orchestra assistant principal bassist Larry Wolfe of Seiji Ozawa. "His physique, his gestures, his mannerisms, his grace — oh my God, the grace of that man on the podium was just stunning."
On the occasion of Ozawa's 81st birthday on Sept. 1, WQXR's Merrin Lazyan spoke to Wolfe about Ozawa's qualities as a conductor. Wolfe was three years into his tenure at the BSO when the Japanese maestro became its music director in 1973. Ozawa would go on to hold the post for 29 seasons — longer than anyone else in the orchestra's history.
In addition, he's founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra, dedicated to his former teacher; the Matsumoto Festival; and Tokyo Opera Nomori all in Japan. In 2004, he also began the International Music Academy in Switzerland, where he works with young chamber musicians. Over the past few years, health issues have limited his engagements.
Ozawa's dedication to music is also at the heart of a forthcoming book of conversations between the maestro and his friend, writer Haruki Murakami, titled Absolutely on Music. In the introduction of the book, which will be released this November, Murakami observes:
"For Seiji Ozawa, music was the indispensable fuel that kept him moving through life. Without periodic injections of live music into his veins, he could not go on living. There was only one way in this world for him to feel truly alive, and that was for him to create music with his own hands and to thrust it as a living, throbbing thing into the faces of an audience: 'Here!'"
Last year Ozawa was honored with a surprise birthday celebration from pianist Martha Argerich and the Saito Kinen Orchestra. (You can see the video of that moment here). May he enjoy many more.
Thank you to Larry Wolfe for his contributions to this feature.