Acclaimed American conductor Lorin Maazel has died, after a recent battle with declining health.

American conductor Lorin Maazel has died at the age of 84, as a result of complications following a bout of pneumonia.

Maazel was born in France on March 6, 1930, to a musical family. His father Lincoln was a musician and actor and his mother Marion founded the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. When his family relocated to the United States, Maazel began taking conducting lessons with Vladimir Bakaleinikov. In the following months, Maazel made his conducting and violin debut, and toured the country at the helm of America’s major orchestras.

As a child prodigy, Mazeel gathered an impressive resume, but humbly claimed: “the truth is that talent always develops early in any successful musician. The difference is that most children are not asked to perform on the level that I performed and, of those who were publicly exhibited, I was lucky not to be the stereotypical model of the exploited child forced to perform day after day until he is drained, loses all contact with his peers and ends up a psychological wreck aged 20…I didn’t sacrifice my childhood and so when I was ‘forgotten’ at the age of 15 my life could continue pretty much as normal.” 

Maazel attended Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as Peabody High School and the University of Pittsburgh. In 1945, he briefly studied with Pierre Monteux, the French conductor renowned for his world-premiere performances of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Petrushka.

During his adult career, Maazel occupied the top positions of the international stage, including the Vienna State Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Some of his most popular recorded works include Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances (1990), his Mahler cycle, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and his sets of Shostakovich and Rachmaninov. 

His body of compositions included an opera based on the George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The Ring Without Words, a truncated version of Wagner tetralogy, which he recorded in 1987 with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2009, Maazel and his wife also founded the Castleton Festival, with a view to showcasing young and emerging classical musicians.

Maazel was greatly admired for the precision, rigour and emotion, and became known for performing without a score. In a 2011 interview with The Guardian, he said:  “the hardest part is trying to forget music when I’m not conducting it”. In 2011, at the age of 81, Maazel conducted the ambitious Mahler cycle with the Philharmonia Orchestra. The six-month-long series included 25 concerts, the entire ten symphonies and a selection of other works.

After it was announced that Claudio Abbado was to succeed Herbert von Karajan as head of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1989, Maazel controversially and publicly severed his affiliation with the orchestra. While Maazel voiced his concern for the orchestra’s wellbeing, it was suspected that the decision was based on his own desire for the role.

In later years Lorin maazel reached a whole new fanbase via his engaging and chatty writings on a wide range of subjects published on his own website. Despite his reliable reputation, Maazel was forced to cancel concerts earlier this year due to an unknown medical condition. Just last month, he announced his resignation from the Munich Philharmonic and his withdrawal from performances during its 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Lorin Maazel died in Virginia on July 13, 2014, aged 84.

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