The Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa, one of the most famous conductors of his generation, who led the world’s most famous orchestras, died of a heart attack on Tuesday at his home in Tokyo at the age of 88, Japanese media reported today.

According to the newspaper Asahi Sibunhis funeral was held in the presence of his relatives.

His rich countenance and his smile charmed the publicparticularly in the United States, where his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra spanned nearly three decades.

The 2020Boston declared his birthday, September 1st, “Seiji Ozawa Day,” prompting the maestro to comment that Boston is his second home.

“It was a really important time in my life,” he said at the time. “Wherever I go, Boston is in my heart.”

Years later, back to TokyoOzawa, who used to go unnoticed, was sometimes spotted on subway platforms wearing a jacket and jockey hat of his favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, and willingly stopped to chat with fans.

“I’m the complete opposite of a genius, I’ve always had to try,” he said in 2014 at a press conference.

“I don’t really like to study, but I had to if I wanted to make music. A genius can easily do better than me.”

A short stint at the Vienna State Opera was overshadowed by ill health. In 2010, the year he left the post, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

He later underwent surgery for a back injury and suffered bouts of pneumonia, which often sidelined him but did not dampen his enthusiasm.

“I’m going to keep doing everything I’ve always done, teaching and conducting an orchestra, until I die,” Ozawa said in an interview with Reuters in December 2013. He was wearing a Boston Red Sox tie and black jacket.

Who was Seiji Ozawa?

Seiji Ozawa was born in 1935 in the Chinese province of Manchuria, then a Japanese colony.

He started learning the piano in elementary school, but after breaking two fingers as a teenager playing rugby – another passion – he turned to conducting.

The 1959 he settled abroad and met some of the greatest figures in the world of classical music, notably the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, to whom he became an assistant in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1961-1962 season, and Herbert von Karajan.

Then he directed them orchestras of Chicago (USA), Toronto (Canada) and San Francisco (USA) and for 29 years held the post of music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which named a concert hall after him.

In 2002 he left this position to become, until 2010, the principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera.

Ozawa leaves behind two children. His daughter, Seira, is a writer and his son, Yukiyoshi, an actor.