Once wrote Blaise Pascal, the child prodigy who became a great French mathematician and philosopher, geniuses “are not seen with the eyes, but with the mind.” Just as Lorin Maazel was not necessarily heard with the ears but with the mind.
The great maestro, Paris-born and Pittsburgh-bred, died Sunday at his Virginia home. He was 84. A child prodigy himself, who a mere two years after his first violin lesson at age 5, was, at age 7, asked to conduct the NBC Symphony by the great Arturo Toscanini, he later studied language, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. How apropos for a genius who understood better than perhaps anyone that to interpret the magic of the great masters one must first be able to discern its precision and inflection.
Mr. Maazel played his violin with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to help pay his way through Pitt, an orchestra he would lead for eight years, ending in 1996. He reinvigorated the PSO, turning it into a world-class symphony orchestra renowned to this day for its public performances and its studio recordings. Maazel went on to direct and conduct the world's greatest orchestras.
A taskmaster described as everything from mercurial to irascible, Maazel “was flawed, he was complicated, just like the rest of us. The only difference was that he was a genius,” reminded close friend and former PSO concertmaster Andres Cardenes.
And it was that genius that enabled Lorin Maazel to discern the soul of the music he so loved and to gift it to his audiences.
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