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Seiji Ozawa: 8 Essential Recordings

Seiji Ozawa: 8 Essential Recordings


Seiji Ozawa, the eminent Japanese conductor whose demise, at 88, was introduced on Friday, was a pressure on the podium. He toured the world’s main live performance halls and helped break obstacles for Asian classical musicians.

He additionally left behind an intensive and different discography: recordings of warhorses like Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years, in addition to of extra obscure items, comparable to Henri Dutilleux’s “The Shadows of Time.” While his stay performances generally drew blended reactions from critics, lots of his recordings — from Boston, Berlin, Japan and elsewhere — are thought of requirements.

“Even at my age, you modify,” Ozawa, then in his 70s, instructed the writer Haruki Murakami. “And sensible expertise retains you altering. This could also be one of many distinguishing options of the conductor’s occupation: The work itself modifications you.”

Here are eight albums that supply an introduction to his music.

Ozawa usually spoke about feeling liberation within the music of Berlioz. “His music is loopy!” he as soon as stated. “Sometimes I don’t know what’s occurring, both. Which could also be why his music is suited to being carried out by an Asian conductor. I can do what I would like with it.” That freewheeling strategy will be heard on this recording of “Symphonie Fantastique” with the Saito Kinen Orchestra, which he helped present in Japan in 1984.

After taking the reins in Boston, in 1973, Ozawa got down to carry out extra French music, impressed by one in all his predecessors, Charles Munch. Ozawa turned a talented interpreter, conducting the whole works of Ravel and Debussy throughout his tenure. Several albums from this era are acclaimed, together with this recording of Fauré’s opera “Pelléas et Mélisande,” through which his aptitude for conjuring recent, flowing sound is on show.

During his time in Boston, Ozawa turned shut with the pianist Krystian Zimerman, going so far as to encourage Zimerman to purchase a house in Massachusetts. With the Boston Symphony, the 2 made this recording of Liszt’s piano concertos, in addition to “Totentanz,” a danse macabre for piano and orchestra, delivering an intense, ferociously rhapsodic account.

Ozawa developed a love for Mahler whereas working as an assistant conductor below Leonard Bernstein on the New York Philharmonic, starting in 1961. Bernstein helped popularize Mahler’s works at a time when his music was not often carried out within the United States. Ozawa as soon as recalled being startled as he reviewed the composer’s scores for the primary time. “It was an enormous shock for me,” he stated. “Until then I by no means even knew music like that existed.” When Ozawa obtained to Boston, he made some extent of performing and recording extra of the composer’s works, together with this studying of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1.

Ozawa garnered accolades for his performances of ballet music, together with this lush recording of Tchaikovsky’s traditional “Swan Lake” with the Boston Symphony. Here, he’s a maestro in full command, delivering a crisp and sleek interpretation. Ozawa’s fondness for dance music led him to document different ballet scores, together with well-regarded accounts of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé.”

Ozawa championed some modern composers, together with Dutilleux, identified for his expressive orchestral music. “The Shadows of Time,” a meditation on grief and loss, had its premiere below Ozawa in Boston in 1997. When the work got here to Carnegie Hall for its New York premiere, a evaluation in The New York Times stated that the efficiency “challenged listeners to recollect the final time that they had left a live performance by a serious American orchestra satisfied {that a} freshly minted work was the spotlight of this system.”

Ozawa knew Stravinsky and felt a particular connection to his music, particularly the composer’s fierce and mysterious “The Rite of Spring.” Here, his youthful vitality mirrors the ability and fury of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ozawa got here late to opera. He had not performed any commonplace repertoire till he turned the music director of the Toronto Symphony in 1965. But he developed an affinity for the style, and, in 1983, he led the world premiere of Messiaen’s “Saint François d’Assise” in Paris. Critics praised his musicality. “Seiji Ozawa maintained exceptional management over his enormous forces,” John Rockwell wrote in The Times, “which spilled out of the pit onto particular platforms and up into the aspect containers.”

David Allen contributed reporting.

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