More historic concerts this week. The Boston Symphony under their then Music Director Seiji Ozawa in a concert recorded on February 3, 1976.
A good one – Starting with Tchaikovksy’s Symphony Number 6 (Pathétique), continuing with Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ The Pleasure Done of Kubla Khan and concluding with Bartok’s Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin.
Between 1964 and 1973, Ozawa directed various orchestras; he became music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973. His tenure at the BSO was maintained for 29 years, the longest tenure of any music director, surpassing the 25 years held by Serge Koussevitzky.
Ozawa won his first Emmy Award in 1976, for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s PBS television series, Evening at Symphony. In 1994, the BSO dedicated its new Tanglewood concert hall “Seiji Ozawa Hall” in honor of his 20th season with the orchestra. In 1994, he was awarded his second Emmy for Individual Achievement in Cultural Programming for Dvořák in Prague: A Celebration.
In an effort to merge all-Japanese orchestras and performers with international artists, Ozawa, along with Kazuyoshi Akiyama, founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra in 1992. Since its creation, the orchestra has gained a prominent position in the international music community.
In the same year, he made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He caused controversy in 1996–1997 with sudden demands for change at the Tanglewood Music Center, which caused Gilbert Kalish and Leon Fleisher to resign in protest.
A controversy subsequently developed over various perceptions of the quality of Ozawa’s work with the BSO. Ozawa stood down from the BSO music directorship in 2002.
Ozawa has been an advocate of 20th-century classical music, giving the premieres of a number of works including György Ligeti’s San Francisco Polyphony in 1975 and Olivier Messiaen’s opera Saint François d’Assise in 1983. He also became known for his unorthodox conducting wardrobe, where he wore the traditional formal dress with a white turtleneck, not the usual starched shirt, waistcoat, and a white tie.
In 2001, Ozawa was recognized by the Japanese government as a Person of Cultural Merit. In 2002, he became principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera. He continues to play a key role as a teacher and administrator at the Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer music home that has programs for young professionals and high school students. On New Year’s Day 2002, Ozawa conducted the Vienna New Year’s Concert. In 2005, he founded Tokyo Opera Nomori and conducted its production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra. On February 1, 2006, the Vienna State Opera announced that he had to cancel all his 2006 conducting engagements because of illness, including pneumonia and shingles. He returned to conducting in March 2007 at the Tokyo Opera Nomori. Ozawa stepped down from his post at the Vienna State Opera in 2010, to be succeeded by Franz Welser-Möst.
In October 2008, Ozawa was honored with Japan’s Order of Culture, for which an awards ceremony was held at the Imperial Palace. He is a recipient of the 34th Suntory Music Award (2002) and the International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence.
On January 7, 2010, Ozawa announced that he was canceling all engagements for six months in order to undergo treatments for esophageal cancer. The doctor with Ozawa at the time of the announcement said it was detected at an early stage. Other health problems with Ozawa have included pneumonia and lower back surgery. Following his cancer diagnosis, Ozawa and the novelist Haruki Murakami embarked on a series of six conversations about classical music that form the basis for the book Absolutely on Music.
On 6 December 2015, Ozawa was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Since then, he’s been having long periods of rest and spending less time on the podium owing to continuing health issues, but at 83 it’s almost a given you slow down at least a little bit.
As a reminder of his long tenure at the BSO, here is a concert from 1976 – fits in perfectly with Anti-Road Rage Wednesday.
Relax and enjoy.