Friday, February 16, 2024


I went to a great many concerts conducted by Seiji Ozawa when I was coming of musical age in Boston. I even got the chance to sing with him once. It was a performance of the Haydn Creation on July 8, 1973. I was so impressed by the music, the soloists, and the experience in general, that all I really remember about Ozawa as a conductor was that he sang everything very quickly in solfege (I was impressed by that). John Oliver, the director of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, told us in that Seiji Ozawa was very particular about diction. I was surprised by the fact that Ozawa never mentioned diction in the rehearsals we had with orchestra.

I always enjoyed hearing the Boston Symphony conducted by its guest conductors, paricularly Leonard Bernstein, Colin Davis, Bernard Haitink, Klaus Tennstedt, and Erich Leinsdorf (I got to sing in Wozzeck under him in 1969) more than I did when Ozawa conducted. And I never understood, during "Beethoven Week," why Ozawa's Beethoven always sounded less meaningful than I hoped it would have sounded.

I do remember enjoying Ozawa's performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, but I still have trouble wrapping my brain around the absolute adoration I read in these internets now that Seiji Ozawa is no longer alive.

I do have something Ozawa-related from 1963 to share that might be new to his younger fans, as well as his older fans.


Lisa Hirsch said...

Ozawa's Beethoven: one of my teachers at Brandeis said that "in Beethoven, the accent was wrong," which I have never forgotten. Interesting to hear your confirmation that something was just off about it.

On FB, folks including Tim Page are pointing to a 70s "Rite of Spring" with the CSO as extraordinary. It's on YouTube:

Elaine Fine said...

It is so very interesting to hear your memory of that "offness" concerning Ozawa's approach to Beethoven. And I love your teacher's use of the word "accent" in this instance, since it means such an appropriate array of things.

I think that the "Rite of Spring" as a piece of music is much more aligned with Ozawa's sensibilities. And I imagine that the CSO of the 1970s enjoyed the contrast to Solti and the "Frenchness" (accent, if you will) that Ozawa offered. That is an excellent recording. Scary, tight, driven, and light all at the same time.