February 2, 2016 Article by Dave Read
Maestro Ozawa’s opening remarks:
My private thoughts – its kind of rare in my profession, 1960, July, I came from Paris to Boston airport, on Pan American, first time in my life to come to America. And then I took autobus from there to Lenox, to join this school here, so – 1960, which is 42 years ago, I came here as a student, and to me, my kind of study in Japan with my great teacher, Professor Hideo Seiko, who was a wonderful teacher but kind of focused on areas like ear training, score reading and how to conduct Bach, how to conduct Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and some Tchaikovsky and never go out of that kind of repertoire.
Mahler, for instance, I never faced a Mahler score. Here, when I arrived, in our room, my classmate is studying Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, very intensely, which I think he was conducting at the end of the summer somewhere and that gave me a shock, that I did not know one note of Mahler. And I never had any opera experience and here we had many students and conductors studying opera. So I had a shock… really my studying of wide repertoire, by shock, I started here.
I was invited as artistic director by the Boston Symphony to come here, at that time musical director William Steinberg had a health condition, he could not do hot, summer, outdoor concerts, so they invited me. That moment was really for me the beginning of surprise miracle – that I came back to Tanglewood permanently. And then I become conductor for the Boston Symphony, so all my circle – my repertoire, my studying, started here, using my knowledge from Professor Seiko in Japan.
For me, it’s a really special place, and now I must say goodbye. It’s really very amazing emotional thing for me.
I don’t have much thinking more than that, but this place has become my system, and the Boston Symphony is really in my system, and many of you know, the school here, where I came in 1960, I was really very involved in the school, so that also is in my system. And this nature here, same lake – we used to have a swim, now still we swim together, so it is something very special for me.
So this weekend for me is very special, and for you to come, I appreciate very much. Any questions from you?
Ellie Tesher, Toronto Star: Do you feel that going to Vienna is really the pinnacle of your career?
Seiji Ozawa: No. First, for my type of profession, orchestra or me, I think changes are good. That’s what people say and I accept that. And anyway between myself and my wife, we felt professionally I must finish my work. I did not know it would be opera, but I love opera and during my years here we tried from the stage – sometimes from the Shed and the Theatre, Peter Grimes.
But very limited opera repertoire I have, so when I got the opportunity to do opera, I thought very good chance for me to do it before I die, to enjoy opera. This is why I made the decision, so I will try anyway.
Dave Conlin Read: Maestro Ozawa, do you see any similarities between Vienna and the Berkshires, goegraphically, culturally, artistically?
Seiji Ozawa: I don’t know! Funny thing, last week in Boston a Japanese TV crew took me to the other side of the Charles River, to a beautiful area where I’ve never been, where the sailboats are. They asked me, where do you usually go?
Between my house in West Newton, Symphony Hall, 2 Japanese, 1 Chinese, 1 Italian restaurant – that’s it, and I don’t know those places in Boston. Viennna – I know the Musikverein, I know the Schonbunn Palace, I know around it, but I don’t – Yes, I know the wine area, that I know. But other places, I don’t know yet.
Dave Conlin Read: Are there any tips or advice you would pass along to your successor, Mr. Levine, regarding life in the Berkshires?
Seiji Ozawa: About a week ago, I was in Japan on the subway around noon on my way to rehearsal and my portable telephone rang. You’re not supposed to do this, but I answered and it’s Jimmy!
I had to tell Jimmy, “I”m on the train.” So I got off at the next stop so I could talk in quiet; two minutes later, I’m on the platform, same question, exactly. He asked me, “Hey Seiji, you give me all the information you can give me.”
So I said of course I’d love to do it, but really I have nothing to tell, because different conductors have different ways…So, the orchestra is ready.
The only thing that is sad for me is that he doesn’t come right now – you know, he’s so busy, so there’s a gap that’s sad for me.
Dave Conlin Read: Where was he calling from?
Seiji Ozawa: Ah! He was calling from Rome at five o’clock in the morning. I said where? and he said he just came from New York where it’s eleven o’clock at night. He was going to Verbier, Switzerland. it was so funny. (James Levine is Music Director of the UBS Verbier Festival Youth Orchestra.)
Dan Levy, WTEN TV: What are your over-riding emothions this weekend?
Seiji Ozawa: Last April when I said goodbye at Symphony Hall, I was so sad, so sad – inside of me was like catastrophe, I was sick. Next day, I was reallty sick.
So I thought this place, it is open, and the public and the nature, I thought this would be for me and for my group, symphony and students, a big, happy celebration. The program is made for that, I hope it will be. Mahler’s 9th Symphony in Symphony Hall, the orchestra played so good for me; nobody between me and the orchestra and that was the best communication. Two weeks ago I watched the performance on Japanese TV and I was in tears. Something I did not know, I was so busy that moment. When I see the faces of the orchestra members, it was very special.