Lorin Maazel, the famed American conductor and composer has died aged 84, as a result of complications following pneumonia. His passing was announced by the website of the Castleton Festival, which Maazel and his wife founded in 2009.

Lorin MaazelLorin Maazel photographed in 2006 - photo: Getty/Quim Llenas

Born in France, but raised in America, Maazel took his first violin lesson at aged five. By the time he was seven the child prodigy had begun conducting, making his debut a year later. Between the ages of nine and 15, Maazel had conducted many of the major American orchestras, including guest conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra on the radio.

Over the next seven decades, Maazel’s extraordinary career would see him conduct more than 150 orchestras in no fewer than 5,000 opera and concert performances.

He would also hold many of the most prestigious posts in the classical world, including Artistic Director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, General Manager of the Vienna State Opera and Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, a position which would see him make an unprecedented visit to North Korea in 2008 to perform a concert broadcast on state television and internationally.

Alongside his reputation as a conduction, Maazel was also a highly regarded composer. His first opera ‘1984’, was based on George Orwell’s novel of the same name and premiered at the Royal Opera House in London.

More: With Seven Decades Conducting Across The Globe, Lorin Maazel Left His Mark On Classical Music

In 2009 Maazel and his wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, founded the Castleton Festival which was held every year at the couple’s Virginia farm. The festival looked to nurture young musicians through mentoring and performing, while showcasing their talents alongside established stars.

Throughout his career, Maazel had a reputation for being difficult to work with, however he was thought to have mellowed in his later years through his work at Castleton.

In a 2011 interview he remarked, “There are only two ways of growing older. You can get more and more wrapped up in yourself, bitter and turned inward, or more mellow.” Adding, “the children I had whom I love challenged me to get out of my own shell. It takes life experience to shake us up.” Maazel is survived by his wife Dietlinde along with his seven children and four grandchildren.