Music: What Makes Seiji Run?

At the peak of his career, Ozawa remains a man of two worlds

On a terrace overlooking Lake Fuschl near Salzburg, Seiji Ozawa and Yo-Yo Ma are deep in conversation. "Remember that discussion about whether an Oriental can do Western music?" asks the Japanese conductor in heavily accented English. Ma does. "Music can be learned, really, by anybody who cares to know it well enough and deeply enough," says the cellist, who is of Chinese parentage but as American as a baseball cap.

In Asia, Ma notes, "conforming is more important than being an individual. That becomes hard when you have a talent. You have to speak up, you have to say, 'I have...