THE first stroke came like a clash of cymbals in the middle of a quiet violin sonata: Lorin Maazel was leaving. Barely a pulse later, the second blow fell: Tito Capobianco was taking off, too.
Just like that, Pittsburgh is losing two of its musical giants.
Within one day late last month, Maestro Maazel, musical director and conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Mr. Capobianco, general director of the Pittsburgh Opera, announced their resignations.
One musician called Maazel's departure ``tragic,'' and arts critics spoke of culture shock. But for Maazel and Capobianco, the resignations - which are years away - present a chance to recharge creative batteries.
Maazel will not renew his contract when it expires after the 1995-96 season. He hopes to spend his free time composing. He wants to work on a number of pieces, including a flute concerto for James Galway and an orchestra setting of narrative poetry.
A hazier future awaits Capobianco, who will leave the Pittsburgh Opera after the 1996-97 season. He has no plans beyond spending time with his wife and family. He says he will consider teaching or writing a book.
For the symphony, Maazel's decision means the end of an era in which the orchestra perfected its sound, recruited 35 musicians, and toured extensively. Under Maazel, the orchestra has made nine trips abroad, including performances in China, the former Soviet Union, South America, and Mexico. He has been music director since 1988.
Capobianco took the helm of the opera company in 1983 and guided it through a rocky period that saw the budget shrink from $4.4 million to its present $3.8 million. Capobianco boosted the opera's visibility by appearing in commercials with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell and actor Burt Lancaster. He brought in such high-profile names as Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and Dame Gwyneth Jones. The audience was eventually doubled.