Seiji Ozawa has had a dazzling career to date. Born to Japanese parents in China on 1 September 1935, he began learning about Western music at Japan’s Toho Gakuen School of Music. His first teacher, Hideo Saito, taught him the basic techniques he needed to head to Europe and the United States and thus to the very roots of the traditions and the repertoire of the music he had been studying. His career took off in 1959 when he was awarded first prize in the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors. Charles Münch then invited him to direct the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival. Next, Seiji Ozawa studied in Berlin under Herbert von Karajan before further honing his skills with Leonard Bernstein, whom he considered a “genius”. Bernstein invited Ozawa to join him and the New York Philharmonic on a tour of Japan.
During his American years, Seiji Ozawa was musical director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1965 to 1969, before being appointed director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1976. During the latter tenure, he also made his mark as director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with which he stayed until 2001.
Returning to Europe, where he was musical director of the Vienna Opera between 2002 and 2010, Seiji Ozawa was careful not to neglect his bonds with Japan. In 1984, in honour of his teacher Hideo Saito, he founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra. Each summer, in the town of Matsumoto, this ensemble brings together Japanese musicians from the most prestigious Western orchestras to play in the Saito Kinen Festival. In addition, twice a year, Maestro Ozawa directs the Mito Chamber Orchestra, which was created in 1990 and comprises some 30 top-notch musicians. Ozawa has always been concerned about young artists’ musical development. He is behind several academies the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy Okushiga, the Ongaku-Juku Academy in Japan and the International Music Academy – Switzerland in Geneva, known since 2011 as the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland. Always true to his public, Seiji Ozawa shares his immense talent during legendary performances that make him one of the greatest conductors of the century.