Seiji Ozawa conducting, circa 1983. Photo courtesy of Boston Symphony Orchestra. Photo by Akira Kinoshita.

In Friday’s (2/9) New York Times, James R. Oestreich writes, “Seiji Ozawa, the high-spirited Japanese conductor who took the Western classical music world by storm in the 1960s and ’70s and was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002, died on Feb. 6 in Tokyo. He was 88. The cause was heart failure, said a spokeswoman for the Seiji Ozawa International Academy Switzerland … With his mop of black hair, his boyish demeanor and his seemingly boundless energy, Mr. Ozawa captured the popular imagination early on. He found himself near the top of the American orchestral world in 1973, when he was named music director of the Boston Symphony. He scored many successes over the years, proving especially adept at big, complex works … He left [Boston] in 2002 to become music director of the august Vienna State Opera, where he stayed until 2010…. Seiji Ozawa was born to Japanese parents in Japanese-occupied Shenyang, China, on Sept. 1, 1935. (The family returned to Japan in 1944.)… He studied conducting under Hideo Saito, the pre-eminent teacher of Western music in Japan … In 1959 he traveled to Europe … He won a competition for orchestral conductors … and was invited … to study at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood … He studied with Herbert von Karajan in Berlin and … Leonard Bernstein appointed him an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1961…. In 1964, he became artistic director of the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1965,” he was named music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, “and his career took off. He … was music director of the San Francisco Symphony from 1970 to 1976…. [In 1984], he helped found the Saito Kinen Orchestra … This spawned the Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto in 1992; the event was renamed the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival in 2015.”

To honor Ozawa, its music director laureate, the Boston Symphony Orchestra offered a spoken and musical tribute at the start of its performance on Friday afternoon, January 9. BSO President and CEO Chad Smith offered remarks, and guest conductor Karina Canellakis led the BSO in Bach’s Air on the G String (from the Orchestral Suite No. 3), a work that had personal significance and history for Ozawa.