Seiji Ozawa, the eminent Japanese conductor whose death, at 88, was announced on Friday, was a force at the podium. He toured the world’s leading concert halls and helped break barriers for Asian classical musicians.
He also left behind an extensive and varied discography: recordings of warhorses like Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which he led for 29 years, as well as of more obscure pieces, such as Henri Dutilleux’s “The Shadows of Time.” While his live performances sometimes drew mixed reactions from critics, many of his recordings — from Boston, Berlin, Japan and elsewhere — are considered standards.
“Even at my age, you change,” Ozawa, then in his 70s, told the author Haruki Murakami. “And practical experience keeps you changing. This may be one of the distinguishing features of the conductor’s profession: The work itself changes you.”
Here are eight albums that offer an introduction to his music.
Berlioz: ‘Symphonie Fantastique’
Ozawa often spoke about feeling liberation in the music of Berlioz. “His music is crazy!” he once said. “Sometimes I don’t know what’s going on, either. Which may be why his music is suited to being performed by an Asian conductor. I can do what I want with it.” That freewheeling approach can be heard in this recording of “Symphonie Fantastique” with the Saito Kinen Orchestra, which he helped found in Japan in 1984.
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