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Grammy-Winning Japanese Conductor Seiji Ozawa Dies at 88

Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa died at his home in Tokyo on Feb. 6, 2024, due to heart failure. He was 88 years old.

A private funeral was held with his close family in accordance with the deceased’s wishes, with a memorial service scheduled at a later date.

Ozawa was born in 1935 in Shenyang, China. After studying under Karajan and Bernstein, he served as the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia Festival, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony.

In 1973, Ozawa was appointed as the thirteenth music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He became the first Asian music director at Wiener Staatsoper in the autumn of 2002, a position he held until spring 2010.

Among the many awards and accolades Ozawa has received in Japan and internationally include the Asahi Prize (1985), the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art, First Class  (2002), the Mainichi Art Award (2003), the Suntory Music Award (2003), honorary membership of the Wiener Staatsoper (2007), France’s Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (2008), Foreign Associated Member in the Académie des BeauxArts de l’Institut de France (2008), the Order of Culture in Japan (2008), Giglio D’Oro by Premio Galileo 2000 Foundation of Italy (2008), the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association (2011), the Akeo Watanabe Foundation Music Award (2011), and the Kennedy Center Honors (2015), as well as an honorary doctorate from Harvard University (2000) and Sorbonne University (2004).

In 2010, he also became the first Japanese to be bestowed an honorary membership to the Vienna Philharmonic.

Ozawa won Best Opera Recording at the 58th Grammy Awards in 2016 for Ravel: L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, recorded at the 2013 Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, in which he conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra.

The same year, he was named an honorary member of the Berlin Philharmonic and an honorary citizen of Tokyo.

He has been an elected member of the Japan Art Academy since March 2022.

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