Maazel was born to Jewish American parents of Russian origin in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, and brought up in the United States, primarily at his parents' home in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood. His father, Lincoln Maazel (1903–2009), was a singer, teacher of voice and piano, and an actor (he co-starred in George A. Romero's 1977 horror movie Martin); and his mother, Marion "Marie" Shulman Maazel (1894–1992), founded the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra. His grandfather Isaac was a violinist in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for twenty years. Both Lincoln and Marie gave interviews for the Oral History Collection at the University of Pittsburgh, Lincoln's in 1994, and Marie’s in 1974. These can be heard online.
Maazel was a child prodigy, taking his first conducting lesson at age seven with Vladimir Bakaleinikov and making his debut at age eight. At the age of eleven, he guest conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra on the radio. At twelve he toured America to conduct major orchestras. He made his violin debut at the age of fifteen. He attended Peabody High School and the University of Pittsburgh. Maazel studied briefly with Pierre Monteux in 1945.
In 1960, Maazel became the first American to conduct at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. He was chief conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1965 to 1971 and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1965 to 1975.
In 1972, Maazel began his tenure as music director at the Cleveland Orchestra, succeeding George Szell. Maazel's emotional, rich interpretation of music greatly differed from Szell's characteristic crisp, defined precision in performance. A notable achievement during this time was the first complete recording of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, using an all-African American cast (except for the chorus). Maazel held the post until 1982. He has not conducted the orchestra since his departure; a scheduled engagement in 2006 did not occur because of illness.
In 1977 he became music director of the Orchestre National de France in Paris, a place he held till 1991.
Maazel served at the Vienna State Opera from 1982 to 1984 as general manager and chief conductor. In 1980 he had succeeded Willi Boskovsky as conductor at the Vienna New Year's Concert, and he led this televised annual event each year until 1986. He has also returned to it four times, in 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2005.
From 1984 to 1988, Maazel was the music consultant to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and its music director from 1988 to 1996. From 1993-2002, he was chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich.
In 1989, expecting - but failing - to become successor to Herbert von Karajan as chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, Maazel suddenly and publicly severed all connections with the orchestra when it was announced that Claudio Abbado was to take over. He claimed that his decision was because he was concerned for the orchestra's well-being.
In 2000, Maazel made a guest-conducting appearance with the New York Philharmonic in two weeks of subscription concerts after an absence of over twenty years, which met with positive reaction from the orchestra musicians. This engagement led to his appointment in January 2001 as the orchestra's next music director, starting in 2002, succeeding Kurt Masur. Maazel conducted the New York Philharmonic on their landmark visit to Pyongyang, North Korea on February 26, 2008. He led the orchestra in renditions of the North Korean and United States national anthems, Dvořák's New World Symphony, George Gershwin's An American in Paris, and closed with the traditional Korean folk song "Arirang". Maazel stepped down from the New York Philharmonic after the 2008-2009 season.
In 2004, Maazel became the music director of the Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic. From September 2006 till March 2011, he was the musical director of the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, house orchestra of the opera house Palau de les Arts, Valencia, Spain. His last concert there as Music Director took place on his 81st birthday on the 6th of March 2011, conducting his only opera "1984". In March 2010, Maazel was named the next chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, effective with the 2012-13 season. But an early departure by Christian Thielemann prompted Maazel to start a year early, taking over important concerts from September 2011
His own compositions include an opera, 1984, based on the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was depicted conducting Vienna's New Year concert on an Austrian postage stamp issued in 2005. Maazel and his wife Dietlinde Turban operate a summer music festival called Castleton Festival at their Castleton, Virginia 600-acre (2.4 km2) estate. Maazel arranged Wagner's Ring Cycle into a 75-minute suite, The 'Ring' Without Words, which he recorded in 1987 with the Berlin Philharmonic.
- George Gershwin: Porgy and Bess, with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus featuring soloists Leona Mitchell, Willard White, Florence Quivar, Barbara Hendricks, François Clemmons, McHenry Boatwright, Arthur Thompson, Barbara Conrad, et al. (Decca)
- Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet, with the Cleveland Orchestra (Decca)
- Georges Bizet: Carmen, with the Orchestre National de France and the Radio France Chorus, featuring soloists Julia Migenes (soprano), Plácido Domingo (tenor), Faith Esham (soprano), Ruggero Raimondi (bass-baritone), Lillian Watson (soprano), Susan Daniel (mezzo-soprano), et al. (Erato New DVD CDR10530)
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Complete Symphonies (1-9), with the Cleveland Orchestra (CBS);
- Sergei Rachmaninoff: Complete symphonies (1-3), Isle of the Dead, and The Rock, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. (Deutsche Grammophon 419314)
- Jean Sibelius: Complete symphonies (1-7), with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. (Decca 430778)
- Gustav Mahler: Complete symphonies (1-9 plus the Adagio of Symphony No. 10), with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. (CBS/Sony)
- Maurice Ravel: L'enfant et les sortilèges, with the French National Radio Orchestra and the Radio France Chorus, featuring soloists Françoise Ogéas (soprano), Jeannine Collard (alto), Jane Berbié (soprano), Sylvaine Gilma (soprano), Colette Herzog (soprano), Michel Sénéchal (tenor), Heinz Rehfuss (baritone), et al. (DG 423718)
- Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, with the Cleveland Orchestra
- Andrew Lloyd Webber Variations with Julian Lloyd Webber (cello) and the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Philips 420 342)
- Andrew Lloyd Webber Requiem with Plácido Domingo, Sarah Brightman, Paul Miles-Kington and the English Chamber Orchestra (EL 270242 1)
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Concert Choir, featuring soloists Birgit Nilsson (soprano), James McCracken (tenor), Kurt Böhme (bass), Tom Krause (baritone), Graziella Sciutti (soprano), Donald Grobe (tenor), et al. (Decca 448104)
- Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel) and Night on Bald Mountain (orch. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov) with the Cleveland Orchestra (Telarc CD-80042)
- Pittsburgh Live
- Sara Bauknecht (23 September 2009). "Obituary: Lincoln Maazel / Performer and father of symphony conductor". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Variety Staff (17 December 1992). "Obituary: Marion Maazel". Variety. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
- Lynne Conner (13 January 2002). "The Double Life of Lincoln Maazel", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- "High School Boy to Lead Pittsburgh Symphony". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 15, 1942. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Apone, Carl (September 12, 1986). "The Maazel Era Begins". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- "East Liberty's Wall of Fame". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 7, 2001. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
- Canarina J. Pierre Monteux, Maître. Amadeus Press, Pompton Plains, Cambridge, 2003, p228.
- Donald Rosenberg, "Maazel cancels". Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8 May 2006.
- Rockwell, John (1989-10-25). "Maazel Cancels All Berlin Philharmonic Dates". The New York Times.
- Martin Kettle (26 January 2001). "The show goes on". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- Ralph Blumenthal and Doreen Carvajal (5 February 2001). "Musicians Sing Out and Philharmonic Listens". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Ralph Blumenthal (30 January 2001). "Maazel Is to Lead Philharmonic; Will Succeed Masur as Director". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Norman Lebrecht (31 May 2001). "At last, I've made my father happy". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-04-27.
- "Lorin Maazel wird Chefdirigent der Münchner Philharmoniker" (Press release). Munich Philharmonic. 27 March 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
- September 15, 2011 (2011-09-15). "Guess who’s starting a new job tonight". Artsjournal.com. Retrieved 2012-04-22.
- "Austria: New Year's Concert 2005 - Lorin Maazel". International Stamp News.com. 2005-01-01. Retrieved 2009-11-24.
- Daniel J. Wakin (2009-06-12). "For Maestro Maazel, It’s on to the Coda". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
- Der Ring ohne Worte, Schott Music
- ASIN B000003CUJ, Ring Without Words
- Lorin Maazel official website
- Lorin Maazel Biography
- Lorin Maazel at AllMusic
- Interview with Marion Maazel mother of Lorin Maazel (1974) University of Pittsburgh
- The Châteauville Foundation was established at Castleton Farms, VA in 1997 by Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel. The Foundation's mission is to nurture young artists, foster collaborative artistic enterprise and create opportunities within the community for shared cultural experience.
- USA Today Q&A with Lorin Maazel about leadership
- Interview with Lorin Maazel by Bruce Duffie, October 22, 1986
|Principal Conductor, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
|Principal Conductor, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana