Monday, January 3, 2011

Centering Technique

In a recent KPLU Fresh Air interview (March 10, 2008) with Lorin Maazel, 78-year-old conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Maazel described his suggestions for preparing for the physical and emotional rigors of conducting:

Take a deep breath
Take 60 seconds to relax every muscle of your body
Take a deep breath

Have the following conversation with yourself: What I do here is of no consequence; I am a servant. I will do this job with enthusiasm, exhilaration and focus.

When asked if he used the above technique prior to his recent concert in Pyongyang, North Korea, he stated that the above technique is used by students and young professionals-and that because the above technique is second-nature to him, he no longer needs this external exercise.

Born: March 6, 1930 - Neuilly (Paris), France

The conductor Lorin Maazel was born in France of American parents. He was brought up and educated in the USA. His possession of absolute (perfect) pitch and photographic memory were discovered when he was four years of age. His musical studies began the next year with violin and piano. He also studied conducting in Pittsburgh with Vladimir Bakaleinikoff. At the age of seven, he was invited by Arturo Toscanini to conduct the N.B.C. Symphony, and subsequently led the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in summer concerts at Lewisohn Stadium. In 1939, at the age of nine, he conducted the Interlochen Orchestra at the New York World's Fair, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in the Hollywood Bowl, sharing a program with Leopold Stokowski. He made his Cleveland Orchestra debut on March 4, 1943, at a pension fund concert in Public Music Hall.

At the age of sixteen, Lorin Maazel entered the University of Pittsburgh to study languages, mathematics, and philosophy. While a student, he was a violinist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, served as apprentice conductor during the 1949-1950 season, and organized the Fine Arts Quartet of Pittsburgh. In 1951 he studied baroque music in Italy on a Fulbright Fellowship, and began conducting leading European orchestras. In the summer of 1952, he conducted the Cleveland Summer Orchestra (Cleveland Pops) in two concerts at Public Hall.

Lorin Maazel was the first American and youngest conductor to conduct at Byreuth. He has conducted throughout Europe, Australia, North and South America, Japan, the former Soviet Union, at most international festivals and opera houses including Salzburg, Edinburgh and Lucerne, the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera, and Covent Garden. He has appeared with all the major symphony orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra.

Lorin Maazel began his tenure as the fifth Music Director of the Cleveland Orchestra at the beginning of the 1972-1973 season, a position he held for ten years. During his tenure in Cleveland, he appeared with the orchestra in some 700 performances, made seven international tours with the orchestra: The opening week of the Sydney Opera House in Australia (1973), Japan (1974), Latin America (1975), Europe (1976 and 1979), Mexico City (1977), and the Orient (Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, 1978). He brought opera back to Severance Hall in 1974 with the performance of Richard Strauss, Elektra.

From September 1982 to 1984, Lorin Maazel was General Manager and Artistic Director of the Vienna State Opera. He was the first American to hold that position. He is currently the Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Among his many decorations, awards, and recording prizes are the Comander's Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Legion of Honor of France, and the Commander of the Lion of Finland. He has also been awarded the title of Ambassador of Good Will by the United Nations. He was named an honorary life member of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1985 when he conducted its 40th Anniversary concert. He has received ten Grand Prix du Disque awards.

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