Born in France but educated in the United States, Maazel was a rare example of a genuine child prodigy; he began studying conducting at the age of seven and made his debut at eight, followed by a radio appearance guest-conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra at only eleven, and by his early teens he had conducted major orchestras all over the United States as well as performing as a violinist.
Much of his career was divided between American and German/Austrian orchestras - after a period with the Gershwin Concert Orchestra in cooperation with Ira Gershwin, he was the first American to conduct at Bayreuth and led several Berlin orchestras in the 1960s and 70s; during the 1980s he was at the helm of the Vienna State Opera and conducted the New Year's Concert many times, as well as making the first complete recording of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, with an African-American cast.
Maazel's performances appear not only on audio recordings but on film - he was the conductor for film versions of Don Giovanni (Joseph Losey's award-winning adaptation, mentioned below), Carmen and Franco Zeffirelli's interpretation of Otello.
Although primarily known as a conductor, Maazel was no stranger to composition himself, arranging material from Wagner's Ring Cycle into a 75-minute suite, The Ring Without Words, and composing an opera based on George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; and as if this were not enough, he was also an accomplished violinist.
Most recently, he became known for his involvement in a groundbreaking piece of artistic diplomacy; during a relatively warm period in US-North Korean relations, Maazel took the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang to present a programme of American (and American-themed) classics such as Gershwin's An American in Paris and Dvorak's New World Symphony.