“Maurice Peress, a conductor who worked closely with both Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington,” died on December 31, writes Neil Genzlinger in Thursday’s (1/4) New York Times. “Mr. Peress spent the last 33 years conducting the student orchestra at the Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music, where he established a master’s degree in conducting.” Peress led the Corpus Christi Symphony in Texas from 1962 to 1974 and conducted the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1970 to 1972. He led the Kansas City Philharmonic from 1974 to 1980. “Mr. Peress … examined the historical underpinnings of American music … in his book ‘Dvorak to Duke Ellington: A Conductor Explores America’s Music and Its African American Roots,’ published in 2004…. He was born on March 18, 1930, in Manhattan, the son of Jewish immigrants. His father, Henry …used to relax by playing the oud and singing in Arabic. His mother, the former Elsie Tygier, sang Yiddish and Polish folk songs to Maurice…. He entered New York University as a music major. He graduated in 1952…. Bernstein became something of a mentor…. In September 1971, Mr. Peress conducted the premiere of Bernstein’s ‘Mass’ to open the Kennedy Center in Washington.”

Posted January 8, 2018