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Antal Dorati; Conductor, High-Fidelity Pioneer

Times Staff Writer

Antal Dorati, a prime expositor of the works of Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly whose more than 500 recordings helped usher in the age of high-fidelity sound, has died at his home at Gerzensee, near Bern, Switzerland.

The Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday that the world-recognized conductor died Sunday at age 82.

Ilsa Dorati, a former concert pianist, would reveal no further details about her husband’s death, and the cause was not immediately announced.

A student and respected scholar of fellow Hungarians Bartok and Kodaly, Dorati looked on both men as friends and teachers. His recordings in the 1950s and ‘60s also featured the works of Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. He was among the first to record the complete recordings of Haydn’s symphonies.

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A graduate of the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, his birthplace, he studied there with Bartok and Kodaly and after graduating at age 18 became an aide at the Budapest Royal Opera. His conducting debut came there that same year, 1924.

For the next few years the reserved, scholarly Dorati devoted his efforts to ballet. From 1933 to 1941 he conducted with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and from 1941 to 1945 with the American Ballet Theater.

He also had led orchestras in Budapest, Dresden and Monaco before World War II and then came to the United States via Australia, becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1947. That was 10 years after his first concert appearance in this country as a guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington which he eventually led from 1970 to 1977.

In 1945 he was named to head the Dallas Symphony and in 1949 succeeded Dimitri Mitropoulos as head conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony, an affiliation that was to last until 1960. It was during that period that the orchestra’s recordings proved best-sellers in this country as such words as woofer , tweeter and wobble crept into the language thanks to advances in recording techniques.

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During that time Dorati also appeared in Europe and returned there in the 1960s, settling in Switzerland.

He was principal conductor of the British Broadcasting Corp. Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1966 and of the Stockholm Philharmonic from 1966-70. He was on the podium as conductor of the National Symphony at the concert inaugurating the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1971.

His last permanent position was as music director of the Detroit Symphony from 1977 to 1981 when he resigned in a dispute over budget cuts.

In 1979 he completed an autobiography, “Notes of Seven Decades.”


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