Friday, February 8, 2013

In Memoriam: Maestro James DePreist 1936-2013

One of our country's finest conductors, James DePreist, has died - the Director Emeritus of Conducting and Orchestral Studies at The Juilliard School and Laureate Music Director of the Oregon Symphony was 76 years old.

James DePreist was born in Philadelphia to James and Ethel Anderson DePreist and was the nephew of legendary contralto Marian Anderson.

He studied composition with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1962, while on a State Department tour in Bangkok, he contracted polio but recovered sufficiently to win a first prize in the Dimitri Mitropoulous International Conducting Competition. He was selected by Leonard Bernstein to be an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for the 1965-66 season. DePreist made his highly acclaimed European debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 1969. In 1971 Antal Dorati chose him to become his Associate Conductor with the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.

For more than three decades Maestro DePreist served as Music Director of various institutions such as Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, the Malmö Symphony Orchestra in Sweden, Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Oregon Symphony. He was currently serving as Artistic Advisor to the Pasadena Symphony.

As a guest conductor Maestro DePreist has appeared with every major North American orchestra, and internationally he has conducted in Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Manchester, Melbourne, Montreal, Munich, Prague, Rome, Rotterdam, Seoul, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto and Vienna. He made his London debut with the London Symphony at the Barbican in April 2005.

With more than 50 recordings to his credit, James DePreist has a substantial presence in the recording arena. His varied recorded repertoire includes a celebrated Shostakovich series with the Helsinki Philharmonic and 15 recordings with the Oregon Symphony which have helped establish that orchestra as one of America's finest.

James DePreist was awarded 14 honorary doctorates and was the author of two books of poetry - about which Maya Angelou said, "His poetry has the tautness of a perfectly pitched viola and much of its resonance".

He was an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and was a recipient of the Insignia of Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland, the Medal of the City of Quebec and was an Officer of the Order of Cultural Merit of Monaco.

In 2005 President George W. Bush presented James DePreist with the National Medal of Arts, our nation's highest honor for artistic excellence.

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