Abravanel, Maurice, 1903-1993.

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1903-01-06
Death 1993-09-22
Americans
French, English, German

Biographical notes:

Conductor of the Utah Symphony.

From the description of Interviews, 1981. (Utah Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 122415000

Conductor. Abravanel (1903-1993) was born in Greece and grew up in Switzerland. He became a music theory student of Kurt Weill in 1922 in Berlin, and studied with him for a year. He and Weill remained good friends. When Abravanel became a conductor, Weill preferred him as a conductor of his own works; Abravanel conducted the premiere of Die sieben Todsünden in Paris in 1933. He went on to conduct for two years in Australia and one year at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, at which point Weill asked him to conduct his new Broadway musical, Knickerbocker holiday (1938). Their relationship continued as Abravanel conducted all of Weill's shows through Street scene (1947). That year, Abravanel moved on to the Utah Symphony Orchestra, where he served as musical director until 1979, becoming known as one of America's greatest teachers, orchestra builders, and conductors.

From the description of Papers of Maurice Abravanel relating to Kurt Weill in the collections of the University of Utah, 1926-1983. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 122488514

Greek-born American conductor and close associate of Kurt Weill in Germany and the U.S.

From the description of An oral history interview with Maurice Abravanel / conducted for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by David Farneth and Lys Symonette, Tanglewood, 1984 August 8 : recording and transcript. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 122583680

From the description of An oral history interview with Maurice Abravanel / conducted for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by David Farneth and Lys Symonette, Tanglewood, 1984 August 7 : recording and transcript. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 122469653

From the description of An oral history interview with Maurice Abravanel / conducted for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by Armen Guzelimian and Alan Rich, Los Angeles, 1978 August 23 : recording and transcript. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 122469641

From the description of An oral history interview with Maurice Abravanel / conducted for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by Donald Spoto and Lys Symonette, New York, NY?, 1985? : recording and transcript. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 152675386

From the description of An oral history interview with Maurice Abravanel / conducted for the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music by Alan Rich, Kim Kowalke, and Lys Symonette, Tanglewood, 1982 August 26 : recording and transcript. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 122460320

Utah Symphony Orchestra , 1960s.

Epithet: conductor

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000472.0x00034b

For more than three decades, the names of Maurice Abravanel (1903-1993) and the Utah Symphony were virtually synonymous. Born in Greece of Spanish and Portuguese parents, he was raised in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he first conducted at the age of 16.

Abravanel studied in Berlin with Kurt Weill, later enjoying a close collaboration with the composer which led to conducting the world premieres of all of Weill's American productions. After debuts in Europe at renowned houses including the Berlin State Opera and Paris Opera, Abravanel was engaged in 1936 to conduct the Metropolitan Opera--the youngest conductor ever to step to its podium.

His tenure as Music Director of the Utah Symphony lasted from 1947 until 1979, when he retired for health reasons. Under Abravanel's leadership, the Utah Symphony grew from a part-time, community ensemble into one of the finest and most respected orchestras in the country.

A perfectionist who was relentless in his quest for artistic excellence, Abravanel was a constant source of inspiration to the musicians and staff. He strove to share great music with an entire spectrum of listeners: students from grade school through college, rural Utah residents, subscribers who never missed a concert, and music lovers throughout the state, country and international capitals.

He led the Utah Symphony on four triumphant international tours. Under his direction, the orchestra performed in concert halls of major cities across the country, and brought music to audiences large and small in all corners of Utah and the southwestern region.

Abravanel is credited as being one of the outstanding interpreters of Mahler and Bruckner, championing their works in this country at a time when few others believed in their now-indisputable compositional genius. His recordings of all the Mahler symphonies are regarded as classics, as are many of his other Utah Symphony recordings on labels including Vanguard, Vox, Angel and CBS.

In addition to his passion for the Utah Symphony, Abravanel found time and limitless enthusiasm to promote other arts. In the 1950s, he encouraged choreographer Willam Christensen to return to his native Utah to form a dance department at the University of Utah, which has since evolved into Ballet West. There began a collaboration between orchestra and ballet that started with "The Nutcracker" and continues today. The Symphony maintains a similar relationship with Utah Opera.

Maestro Abravanel was for many years associated with the music department of the University of Utah, where numerous Utah Symphony members received their training. Between 1956 and 1979 he directed the prestigious Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, many of whose participants later joined the Utah Symphony and other top orchestra.

Maestro Abravanel has had three musical auditoriums named in his honor: at the Music Academy of the West; at Oceanside, California; and most recently in Brookhaven, Long Island.

Still a vital force in the music world, Abravanel is artist-in-residence, and in 1982 was director of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1985, he was the only member of that faculty to receive an appointment for life. Countless Tanglewood students consider Abravanel an indispensible presence at the school.

He was vice chairman of the American Symphony Orchestra League, and received the ASOL's Gold Baton Award in 1981. He is a permanent advisor to that organization, participates in its conductor's workshops, and is a frequent judge at competitions for conductors, pianists, and violinists.

President Nixon appointed Abravanel to serve on the National Council of the National Endowment for the Arts and he has been a board member of the Utah Arts Council since 1979. In 1987 he won the first annual Richard D. Bass Achievement Award.

Included among his many awards and honors are a Tony award for "Regina," (The Little Foxes), Grammy nominations for a recording of Honegger's King David, for Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, and for Bloch's Sacred Service. He has received honorary doctorates from several institutions, including the University of Utah, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Utah State University and Weber State College.

This biography is a reprint from the Utah Symphony program of January 8 and 9, 1988, and is used courtesy of Utah Symphony.

Maurice Abravanel died in Salt Lake City on 22 September 1993.

From the guide to the Maurice Abravanel papers, 1890-1996, (J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

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Subjects:

  • Music--Instruction and study
  • Symphony orchestras--Utah--Salt Lake City--History--Sources
  • Music
  • Concerts--Program building
  • Conductors (Music)
  • Musical theater
  • Material Types
  • Conductors (Music)--Utah--Salt Lake City
  • Symphony orchestras
  • Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
  • Conducting
  • Instrumentation and orchestration

Occupations:

  • Conductor
  • Collector

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • Utah (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)