PASSPORT: SEIJI OZAWA
As conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he is based in the States but still retreats to rural Japan to relax
Sunday 13 June 1999
We built a house in West Stockbridge, which is a famous, historic New England town. One of the most beautiful houses there is Seranak, which was owned by the conductor of the BSO, from 1924-1949, Serge Koussevitzky, and his wife Natalie. Guest composers and musicians stay in the house. In the evenings there are often receptions, but in the day you can just sit on the terrace, and there'll be music in the air.
I was born in Shenyang, China, to Japanese parents. When I was seven, my father thought there was going to be war so we moved to Japan. The BSO and I are like family now, but I never lost contact with Japan. My children were educated there. But Boston is a city I've grown to love.
In summer, after a concert, I enjoy walking to Fenway Park from Symphony Hall to catch the end of the Boston Red Sox baseball game. I also watch the New England Patriots play football at Foxborough, which is 45 minutes drive away.
We musicians spend our lives going moving around. About seven years ago, at the baggage claim in Vienna airport, I lost my passport. Everyone hates their passport photographs but my new one made me look half my age. The BSO press office joked that they wanted to use it in all their publicity material.
I really hate travelling, especially all those long flights. Sometimes, I sneak in a short holiday with work. Last Christmas and New Year, I had a demanding opera schedule in Vienna. But as the curtain came down, I rushed off to catch the night train to St Christoph in the Arlberg region - a skier's paradise. I stayed at the St Christoph Bundes sports hall. There are wonderful teachers but no shops or apres-ski - definitely for serious skiing.
My daughter, Seira, is 26, and my son, Yukiyoshi, 24, but we still enjoy family holidays. In America, we ski in the west, at Lake Tahoe. In Japan, we built a house on a mountain in Nagano, the site of the winter Olympic slalom races. Here, everything is still old fashioned. When the Olympics came, the character of the area didn't change that much. The restaurants are very simple, and the locals are traditional. I have many friends in the mountains. Life there is so informal - I appreciate it after one city after another. Tokyo is not the real Japan any more - to get to know it, you need to go to the countryside or to a hot spa. I spend from 12 to 15 weeks a year there, and my children were educated there. In 1992, I founded the Saito Kinen music festival in Matsumoto, now an annual event.
Earlier this year, I conducted Madam Butterfly, the BSO's 25th anniversary present to me. It was thrilling, but when it was over, I was really tired, so I flew to Honolulu to meet my wife and children. We spent the days on the beach. Conducting is such a tense profession, it's essential to find places where you can switch off. The danger is I can become so relaxed, it's difficult to get back into the rhythm of looking at scores and doing long hours of preparation.
Seiji Ozawa will be conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall, London, on 21 June.
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