Saito Kinen Orchestra
Saito Kinen Orchestra was founded in September 1984 when Seiji Ozawa and Kazuyoshi
Akiyama organized a special concert series to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hideo
Saito's death. Mentor to both of these well-known conductors, Professor Saito is best
remembered as co-founder of the Toho Gakuen School of Music, one of Japan's leading music
institutions. Under the leadership of Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Akiyama, more than 100 of Professor
Saito's former students assembled in Japan for that original series of performances.
In 1987, Saito Kinen made its first official tour of Europe. Four years later, in 1991,
the orchestra made its US debut at the opening concert of Carnegie Hall's 101st season. The
following year, Saito Kinen Orchestra became the centerpiece of Mr. Ozawa's first annual
Saito Kinen Festival in Matsumoto, located in the Japanese Alps. Several years later, the
festival featured special commemorative performances in tribute to Tōru Takemitsu-the
spiritual pillar of the festival-after the composer's death in 1996.
The Saito Kinen Orchestra concluded its series of Beethoven recordings in 2002 with the
composer's Ninth Symphony. In May 2004, the orchestra embarked on its seventh European
Two years later, the festival celebrated its 15th anniversary and welcomed Alan Gilbert as
guest conductor. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Takemitsu's death, 2006 also
featured a selection of the composer's works in performances throughout the season. The
following year, soprano Renée Fleming joined the Saito Kinen Orchestra for the world
premiere of Henri Dutilleux's Le temps l'horloge.
Born in 1935 in China to Japanese parents, Seiji Ozawa started piano lessons at an early
age. After graduating from Seijo Junior High School in Tokyo, he studied conducting under
the late Hideo Saito at the Toho Gakuen School of Music, graduating with first prizes in
composition and conducting. In 1959, Mr. Ozawa won first prize at the International
Competition for Orchestra Conductors and was invited to the Tanglewood Festival by Charles
Münch. The following year, he won Tanglewood Music Center's highest honor, the Koussevitzky
Prize for outstanding student conductor.
While a student of Herbert von Karajan, Mr. Ozawa came to the attention of Leonard
Bernstein and was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic under Mr.
Bernstein for the 1961-1962 season. In 1964, he became music director of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra's Ravinia Festival, a position he held for five summers. That same year,
Mr. Ozawa became the music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he stayed for
Mr. Ozawa became the Tanglewood Festival's artistic director in 1970; in December of that
year, he accepted the post of conductor and music director of the San Francisco Symphony.
He retired from San Francisco in 1976, but returned the following season as a music
advisor. In 1973, Mr. Ozawa became the 13th music director of the Boston Symphony
Orchestra, where he stayed for 29 years.
In 1984, Mr. Ozawa and Kazuyoshi Akiyama formed an orchestra to commemorate the late
Japanese music educator, Hideo Saito. Saito Kinen Orchestra officially commenced its
activities in 1987, and in 1992 became the cornerstone of Mr. Ozawa's artistic dream to
found Japan's first international music festival: the Saito Kinen Festival in
Mr. Ozawa's achievements have earned him an honorary doctorate from Harvard University;
membership in the Académie des Beaux-Arts; the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and
Art, First Class; the Suntory Music Prize; and Officier de la Légion d'Honneur. In 2008,
the Emperor decorated him with the Order of Culture, Japan's highest honor. In November
2011, he became the first Japanese to be granted honorary membership to the Vienna
The year 2000 marked the beginning of Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-juku (Seiji Ozawa Music Academy).
Its productions of Le nozze di Figaro, Così fan tutte, Don
Giovanni, Die Fledermaus, La bohème, Il barbiere di
Siviglia, and Carmen have received popular attention from audiences and
critics impressed by the progress shown by the academy's young musicians.
In addition, Mr. Ozawa continues to perform with the New Japan Philharmonic, an orchestra
with which he has worked closely since its founding; and also advises the Mito Chamber