World-renowned maestro Ozawa Seiji dies at 88

Japanese conductor Ozawa Seiji died of heart failure on Tuesday at his home in Tokyo. He was 88.

The world-renowned maestro was born in 1935 in what was then called Manchuria, which is now northeastern China. He returned to Japan at the age of five and began to play the piano when he was an elementary school student.

After entering the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, Ozawa learned conducting from Saito Hideo, who taught a number of conductors.

He moved to France when he was 23 to further his musical training. He won the top prize at a local competition for conductors and began to study under legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan.

His music also impressed American maestro Leonard Bernstein. At the age of 25, Ozawa became an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and conducted many other world famous orchestras, including the Vienna Philharmonic.

Ozawa served for 29 years from 1973 as the musical director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He then became the musical director of the Vienna State Opera.

He also took up the baton at other famed orchestras and opera houses.

In Japan, Ozawa contributed to the founding of the New Japan Philharmonic in 1972. He established the Saito Kinen Orchestra in memory of his old teacher Saito Hideo, and organized a music festival.

Ozawa was awarded the Japanese Order of Culture in 2008.

He has performed on and off since he underwent surgery for esophageal cancer in 2010.

In 2022, he conducted an orchestra for the first time in three years in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan. It was before a concert to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, which he directed. It became his last public performance.

The Vienna Philharmonic issued a statement expressing condolences for the late maestro.

It describes Ozawa as "one of the great conductors of our time." It says, "We look back with gratitude and love on many concerts and opera performances together, especially on our tours through Japan."

The Berlin Philharmonic posted a message in Japanese on social media on Friday with a photo of Ozawa conducting the orchestra.

It said the philharmonic offers its heartfelt condolences to Ozawa, who is an irreplaceable friend and an honorary member of the orchestra.