Conductor / General Director
Born 1935 in Shenyang, China. Seiji Ozawa studied piano from a young age, and after graduating from Seijo Junior High School, he went on to study conducting under Hideo Saito at the Toho School of Music.
In 1959, he won first prize at the International Competition of Orchestra Conductors held in Besançon, and was invited the next summer to Tanglewood by Charles Munch, who was a judge at the competition and music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the time. He proceeded to study under Karajan and Bernstein and went on to serve as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia Festival, music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the San Francisco Symphony. In 1973, he became the 13th music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where his tenure of 29 years was the longest in the history of American orchestras.
In autumn 2002, Ozawa became music director at Wiener Staatsoper, a position he held until spring 2010. His reputation and popularity are enormous in Europe, where he has conducted many orchestras including the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Vienna Philharmonic. He has also appeared in prominent opera houses such as Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna, l'Opéra National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Opera di Firenze, and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
In Japan, Ozawa formed the Saito Kinen Orchestra with Kazuyoshi Akiyama in 1984 to commemorate their late mentor, Hideo Saito. The orchestra held greatly successful concerts in Tokyo and Osaka and went on to tour Europe in 1987, 1989, and 1990. In 1991, it performed concerts in Europe and America and was received with great accolades. These activities lead to the inception of Ozawa’s artistic dream in 1992: the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto. Ozawa became director of this international music festival, a role that continues to this day. SKO continued to tour, with overseas concerts in 1994, 1997 and 2004. From 2015, the festival has entered a new stage as the “Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival”.
Ozawa has been particularly focused on education such as the Chamber Music Academy Okushiga, the Seiji Ozawa Music Academy, and the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland, working actively to cultivate young musicians through performance.
Ozawa has won many awards in Japan and abroad, including: the Asahi Prize (1985); an Honorary Doctorate from Harvard University (2000); the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class (2002); the Mainichi Art Award (2003); the Suntory Music Prize (2003); an Honorary Doctorate from the Sorbonne University of France (2004); Honorary Membership from the Wiener Staatsoper (2007); France’s Officier de la Légion d'Honneur (2008); Foreign Associated Member in the Académie des Beaux-Arts de l'Institut de France (2008); the Order of Culture, which is the highest honor in Japan (2008); Giglio D’Oro by Premio Galileo 2000 Foundation of Italy (2008); the first Japanese national to be bestowed honorary membership to the Vienna Philharmonic (2010); the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2011); the Akeo Watanabe Foundation Music Award (2011); and the Kennedy Center Honors (2015). In February 2016, the Ravel “L’enfant et les sortilèges” album conducted by Seiji Ozawa and performed by the Saito Kinen Orchestra that was recorded at the 2013 Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto won the 58th Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. In 2016, he was named an Honorary Member of the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Ozawa has worked closely with the Mito Chamber Orchestra since its founding in 1990, serving as general director of the orchestra as well as director general of Art Tower Mito from 2013.