Seiji Ozawa, a maestro born in China, carved his illustrious path through the world’s top orchestras, leaving an indelible mark on the classical music landscape. Despite his lofty achievements, Ozawa shunned the traditional trappings of his profession, opting for baseball-themed ties and an informal address by his first name rather than the customary “maestro.”
With his bushy hair and infectious smile, Ozawa captivated audiences worldwide, particularly during his nearly three-decade tenure as the music director of the prestigious Boston Symphony Orchestra. His influence was so profound that in 2020, Boston declared his birthday, September 1, as “Seiji Ozawa Day,” a gesture that deeply touched the maestro, who affectionately referred to Boston as his second home. “That was a really important time in my life,” he reminisced, “No matter where I go, Boston is a part of my heart.”
Even amidst his global acclaim, Ozawa remained grounded, often spotted on Tokyo subway platforms donning the jacket and cap of his beloved Boston Red Sox baseball team, engaging admirers in casual conversations. Despite his humility, Ozawa acknowledged the effort he poured into his craft, admitting, “I’m the complete opposite of a genius, I have always had to make an effort.”
His journey was not without challenges; a stint with the Vienna State Opera was marred by health issues, including a battle with oesophageal cancer in 2010, the same year he bid farewell to the opera house. Yet, Ozawa’s resilience shone through, as he underwent surgery for a back injury and weathered bouts of pneumonia with unwavering enthusiasm.
In a poignant interview with Reuters in December 2013, Ozawa declared his unwavering commitment to music, vowing to continue teaching and conducting orchestras until his last breath. Clad in a Boston Red Sox baseball tie and a black jacket, Ozawa’s dedication epitomized his unique blend of passion and humility, leaving an enduring legacy that transcends musical boundaries. As the curtain falls on his remarkable career, Seiji Ozawa’s baton may rest, but his melody will echo through the corridors of classical music for generations to come.