Obituary: Lincoln Maazel / Performer and father of symphony conductor

Feb. 12, 1903 - Sept. 15, 2009


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Lincoln Maazel was destined to become a performer.

The son of a New York City Metropolitan Opera concert master and the brother of a world-famous pianist, Mr. Maazel had music and showmanship in his blood.

One could say his only child, Lorin Maazel, inherited these musical genes. The former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director, serving from 1988-96, is an internationally renowned musician.

After a lifetime of singing, acting and teaching music, the elder Mr. Maazel passed away on Sept. 15 at his son's farm in Castleton, Va. He was 106.

Mr. Maazel was born in New York City, the middle child of Russian immigrants.

His parents gave him the name Lincoln after Abraham Lincoln, who shared the same birthday, said Dietlinde Turban Maazel, Lorin Maazel's wife.

Before making his way onto the stage, Lincoln Maazel grew up in the wings of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, watching his father and other famous performers, like Charlie Chaplin.

His father's early death and his mother's ailing health required him to take responsibility for himself at a young age. When he was 15, he joined the Navy but he was discharged when his age was discovered.

He then toured with a vaudeville group. But even after he left vaudeville, the tricks and humor he learned on the job never left him. In fact on his 100th birthday, Mr. Maazel frightened his family by pretending to fall over -- a trick he learned during his vaudeville years.

"For his entire lifetime he was the most hilarious vaudevillian," Mrs. Maazel said.

By his late 20s, Lincoln Maazel had gotten married and obtained classical singing training in Paris. At 27, he and his wife celebrated the birth of their son, Lorin.

His performance career led him to Los Angeles, where he starred in a couple films. But as Lorin's prodigious music skills started to surface, his son's training became his focus.

In 1939, Lincoln Maazel moved his family to Pittsburgh when his son's conducting teacher took a job in the city as a music director.

"He devoted his entire life at the time to Lorin's music education," Mrs. Maazel said.

In Pittsburgh, Lincoln Maazel worked as a private vocal, piano and violin instructor. He acted in several Pittsburgh Playhouse productions, and in 1977 he even landed a role in George Romero's vampire film, "Martin."

But teaching and performing were not Mr. Maazel's only passions. He also enjoyed writing poetry and, when he was younger, diving.

While Mr. Maazel's life was long, his philosophy for living was simple. "Not to worry," Mrs. Maazel said was a phrase he shared with others.

In addition to Mr. Maazel's son and daughter-in-law of Virginia, he is survived by seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held for friends and family at Heinz Chapel at 11 a.m. on Oct. 11.


Sara Bauknecht can be reached at 1-412-263-3858 or sbauknecht@post-gazette.com .


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