The long goodbye of Seiji Ozawa

How do you say goodbye to an icon on the classical music scene? S-l-o-w-l-y.

Seiji Ozawa, whose flowing leonine mane has grown only more impressive and distinctive as it has grayed, is about to leave his post as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). He arrived in 1973 and departs after 29 years, the longest tenure in the symphony's history, surpassing even the legendary Serge Koussevitzky.

At a luncheon at Boston's Symphony Hall last week, one of the seemingly innumerable events surrounding his departure, Mr. Ozawa reflected on his tenure, thanking the BSO for having the "guts ... to take me as musical director."

Today the BSO, which includes the Boston Pops and the orchestra's summer home at Tanglewood in rural western Massachusetts (where as a student in 1960 Ozawa won the Koussevitzky Prize for conducting), is "unbelievably strong," he says. His last days as music director, he says, are "very difficult emotionally for me," something he doesn't want to intrude on his last few concerts at Symphony Hall, where his final appearance is April 20. "I shouldn't be emotional, the music should be emotional."

Ozawa, who is becoming music director of the Vienna State Opera, will give his final Tanglewood performances this summer. At the luncheon, a video showed Ozawa in action on the podium and off over the years – even racing joyously around Tanglewood in a golf cart. Earlier, he was given a chair taken from his favorite listening post in Symphony Hall, the second balcony.

And, since he's a huge Red Sox baseball fan, plans are being discussed for what could be his grandest finale of all – conducting a concert of the BSO at historic Fenway Park this summer.

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