In more than half a century of making music, the maestro has found himself in highly charged political situations, such as driving to East Berlin and back during his tenure as music director of the Deutsche Opera (1965-71), to check out a Felsenstein production at the Unter den Linden Opera.
In October 1964, he was staying at Moscow's Leningradskaya Hotel the day Khrushchev was removed. The streets were empty, but he was eventually driven through three concentric rings of tanks to get to a rehearsal, where the Russian State Orchestra was on stage ready to play Mahler 2.
Beijing is the fifth leg of the orchestra's current tour after Taipei, Kaohsiung, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
The orchestra made a memorable debut in Shanghai and thinks one of the highlights was a teaching program for 256 teenagers.
"As a father of seven kids, I am very interested in teaching young people," Maazel said during the press conference on Saturday. "Although not all these kids we teach will became professional musicians, they will all become fans of classical music and we need such defenders of classical music.
"They sat there so well prepared, so earnest and played with utter concentration. I took photos with them and shall always carry with me the image of these delightful youngsters," he said.
The orchestra is expected to stay in Pyongyang for two nights before it heads for Seoul.
(China Daily February 25, 2008)