Hard to believe: Lorin Maazel is dead

Hard to believe: Lorin Maazel is dead


norman lebrecht

July 13, 2014

He expected to live and work to 100, just as his father did. He talked to me many times of his fitness and determination. In his late 70s, he still played three strong sets of tennis. He thought nothing of stepping in for frail conductors a generation younger than himself.

News of his death this morning, aged 84, is hard to digest. he was carried off by pneumonia, following a bout of major surgery from which he appeared to be recovering. This is the last known picture of Lorin Maazel alive, published on Slipped Disc earlier today.

An appreciation will follow. Click here.

lorin maazel castleton

God bless you, God rest you, Lorin. You were a fighter to the last.


  • Brian says:

    A shock indeed. I will never forget his performance of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra with the New York Philharmonic in Cologne a few years ago, and I treasure his recordings, particularly his sublime Ravel. My condolences to Dietlinde Turban and Mr Maazel’s entire family.

  • Papageno says:

    I can’t believe that he’s gone. I’d heard that he was sick and would have to stay off the podium for a year, but didn’t expect that he’d pass away so soon. Like many people here, I’ll treasure his recordings as well as the concerts I saw with him — a Britten War Requiem and Bruckner 8th with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, along with a sublime Schubert Unfinished and Mahler 4th recently with the Vienna Philharmonic in Orange County (stepping in for the indisposed Daniele Gatti), were highlights.

    Thank you, Maestro Maazel.

  • Steven Epstein says:

    I had the great honor to work with Maestro Maazel producing recordings with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Vienna Philharmonic. How fortunate was I to see and experience this truly inspired genius at work during those sessions having listened,in the mid 1960s as a young teenager, to his great recordings with the VPO of Tchaikovsky symphonies among other works. Lorin was the consummate professional in the studio and so gracious an individual outside the ‘workplace’. The musical world has lost another icon. Rest in Peace, Lorin. My condolences to Dietlinde and the family.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      Beautiful sentiments, Steve. I never had the honor to work with Maestro Maazel, but his performances and recordings are a legacy to music forever. How fortunate indeed you were, along with many musicians, to experience his genius first-hand.

  • Ljubisa Jovanovic says:

    Oooooohhhhh, no….
    So sad!

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    A great loss to the world of music- one of the towering podium figures of the last and present centuries.

    I’d imagined him to be indefatigable- the Peter Pan of conductors who would appear to have the capacity to go on forever. But like Solti, who died the same age, his death seems so unexpected.

    I witnessed several of his performances with the Philharmonia in his later years. He was certainly a rare genius in his overrated profession. A superb technician with a phenomenal memory he was sometimes criticised for performances in which the emphasis was on precision over passion. But listen to his recordings and there is an abundance of colour and warmth. His Mahler 4 with the Vienna Philharmonic (with the possible exception of Bernstein’s) is the the most profoundly moving I’ve ever heard.

    In some ways he was probably a bit scarred by his early days as a child conducting freak. Something of which, in later life, he used to remember with a mixture of humour whilst accepting the absurdity of it all.

    I never met him but I did enter for his conducting competition- which he inaugurated several decades ago . I received a very kind letter of encouragement from him personally. RIP Maestro.

  • William Safford says:

    This is a small detail compared to many, but I think it’s illustrative of his career.

    I still remember hearing Judith LeClaire perform the Weber Bassoon Concerto with Maazel conducting the NY Phil in 2005 (or 6). Usually a guest conductor would conduct such a concert. It’s the only time I have seen the principal conductor conduct her in a concerto.

    It was by far the most nuanced accompaniment to a bassoon concerto I have ever heard: delicate, beautifully phrased, never masking the soloist.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    A shock indeed. I learned of his death while at Tanglewood.

    My favorite recordings of his is the Sibelius cycle with the Vienna Phil. Early recordings for him and never before done by the Vienna Phil. until then. The interpretations were maligned by some critics, but I have always been drawn to them. An unlikely combination of composer, orchestra and conductor, but magic was the result.

    RIP, Maestro.

    • Gary Carpenter says:

      I agree about that Sibelius cycle; an extraordinary insight into the structure – particularly the 5th and 6th.

  • David Lloyd says:

    I agree with the previous person.
    His recording of Sibelius 4th Symphony with Tapiola for Decca with the VPO, has remained and given me lasting pleasure for nearly 50 years.

    What a wonderful gift from such a talented musician.

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    Maazel conducted a pension concert with the National Symphony Orchestra October 26, 1993 in music by Johann Strauss Jr., Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. In the lone rehearsal, his face etched in grimace, seated and slouched over with his right elbow resting on his right knee while producing conducting motions made us feel, to say the least, uncomfortable. I might say literally shaking our heads. If he was so bored and/or ill, why even make an appearance? By design perhaps (?) because his act, just hours later, to a packed Kennedy Center auditorium tore down the house. It was one of the most exhilarating concerts I have played in thirty seasons with this orchestra. I will never ever forget the passion, precision and understanding he brought to each work. In the hours between the rehearsal and concert, he was somehow able to elevate himself which lifted the musicians and audience to new heights I had never felt before on that very special evening in Washington, DC. It was incredible. The greatest Gershwin and Dvorak I have ever been part of.

  • Alberto says:

    Don’t forget that he consolidated his credentials in Berlin, in a double position of great importance with the Deutsche Oper and the RIAS orchestra in the 1960’s!