Maazel was born to American parents in Neuilly-sur-Seine in France and brought up in the United States. He was something of a prodigy, making his conducting debut before he was ten and violin debut at the age of fifteen. He later studied at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1960 he became the first American to conduct at Bayreuth. He was conductor of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1965 to 1971, of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1965 to 1975, of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1972 to 1982, of the Vienna State Opera from 1982 to 1984, of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 1988 to 1996 and of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1993. In 2002 he succeeded Kurt Masur as music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.