Born to American parents in Neuilly, France, conductor Lorin Maazel displayed musical maturity at an early age.
Educated in the United States, he studied conducting with Vladimir Bakaleinikov, as well as violin and piano in Pittsburgh. Maazel's conducting career was underway by the tender age of seven, when the legendary Arturo Toscanini invited him to lead the NBC Orchestra in New York. Subsequently, young Maazel directed a series of New York Philharmonic performances at Lewisohn Stadium. In 1939, he conducted the Interlochen Orchestra at the World's Fair in New York, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, sharing the podium with Leopold Stokowski. Maazel's Cleveland Orchestra debut was in 1943, beginning what would become a historic relationship. In 1946, he enrolled in the languages, mathematics, and philosophy departments at the University of Pittsburgh. Concurrently, Maazel was a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony's violin section. In 1951, Maazel traveled to Italy as a Fulbright Scholar to the study music of the Baroque period, and enjoyed success conducting many leading European orchestras.
In 1972, the celebrated Cleveland Orchestra appointed Maazel its fifth music director. He remained in this capacity for a decade. Afterwrd, Maazel served as music director of several prestigious orchestras, including the Deutsch Oper Berlin, Berlin Radio Symphony, and Orchestre National de France, in addition to serving as principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. He was the conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony since 1988 (to 1996), and 1993 (to 2002) respectively. Between 2002 and 2009, he led the New York Philharmonic; the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana from 2006-2011; and from 2004, Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic. His last appointment began in 2011 as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. Maazel held the distinction of being not only the youngest to ever conduct at Bayreuth, but the first American. In fact, when he conducted Wagner's Ring at Bayreuth, Maazel became the first non-German to do so. The maestro conducted virtually all of the world's leading orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, and more. He had vast and impressive experience directing opera, appearing at such prestigious houses as the Salzbug, Lucerne, Paris, and Metropolitan operas. He also conducted at La Scala and Covent Garden, as well as serving as artistic director (and general manager) of the Vienna State Opera from 1982-1984.
Maazel received numerous awards and distinctions, including the Comande's Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic (Germany), Legion of Honor (France), Commander of the Lion (Finland), and was made an honorary member of the Israel Philharmonic in 1985. He received the Grand Prix du Disque award ten times, and had been given numerous honorary degrees from various universities. His popularity and influence were undeniable when the United Nations named him Ambassador of Goodwill.
Maazel championed the use of television and film, himself writing film adaptations for such landmark works as Gustav Holst's Planets, and Vivaldi's Four Seasons. He also wrote operatic film music for Mozart's Don Giovanni and Bizet's Carmen, directed by Joseph Losey and Francisco Rossi, respectively. For these efforts, Maazel was awarded several international prizes.
Throughout his career, Maazel recorded extensively, continuously adding to a discography that is highlighted by recordings of the complete symphonic output of Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninov, and Sibelius. In addition to an ever-flourishing conducting career, Maazel maintained his dedication to composition. The 1996 recording of his concertos for cello, flute, and violin, with Rostropovich, Galway, and the composer as soloists respectively, is indicative of Lorin Maazel's timeless devotion to musical creativity.