Seiji Ozawa (1959)

Seiji Ozawa (1959)

Grand Prix of the 9th International Competition for Young Conductors

[Japanese, 24 years the day of the Final]

Eugène Bigot, jury chairman

Seiji Ozawa’s career has been meteoric. Born to Japanese parents in China on 1st September 1935, he studied Western music at Tokyo’s Toho School of Music. His first tutor, Hideo Saito, taught him the basic techniques that enabled him to travel to Europe and the United States, and thus to the very roots of the traditions and repertoire of the music he had been studying. In 1959 he was awarded First Prize at the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors. This was the start of his dazzling career. Charles Münch invited him to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival.  Seiji Ozawa then studied in Berlin under Herbert von Karajan before further honing his skills as a pupil of Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein considered him a genius and invited Ozawa to join him and the New York Philharmonic on a tour of Japan.

During his years in the USA, Seiji Ozawa served as musical director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1965 to 1969 before being named director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1976. He performed the latter role while acting as director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he made his mark until his departure in 2001.

Ozawa then returned to Europe, serving as musical director of the Vienna Opera between 2002 and 2010, but was careful not to neglect his ties with Japan. Thus, in 1984, he founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra in honour of his teacher Hideo Saito. Each summer, in the town of Matsumoto, the orchestra brings together Japanese musicians serving in the most prestigious Western orchestras to perform at the Saito Kinen Festival. Maestro Ozawa also directs the Mito Chamber Orchestra twice a year, an ensemble created in 1990 and containing some thirty highly skilled musicians.  Ozawa has always taken an interest in the musical development of young artists. He is behind several academies – the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga and the Ongaku-Juku Academy in Japan as well as the International Music Academy – Switzerland (IMAS) in Geneva, known since 2011 as the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland. True to his public, Seiji Ozawa shares his immense talent during legendary performances that make him one of the century’s greatest conductors.

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Photo © Shintaro Shiratori