Werner Janssen, ex-music director of BSO, dies at 91

September 23, 1990|By New York Times News Service

Werner Janssen, the first American-born conductor to lead the New York Philharmonic and later the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, died Wednesday at the Stony Brook (N.Y.) University Hospital. He was 91.

He had a distinguished career as a film composer and champion of contemporary music on the West Coast.

Born in New York, he attended Dartmouth College and the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied conducting in Europe with Felix Weingartner and Hermann Scherchen and composition with Ottorino Respighi. In the 1920s, he also played piano in New York cabarets and contributed numbers for the Ziegfeld Follies and other revues.

His international career blossomed when he conducted an all-Sibelius concert in Finland in 1934, winning glowing praise from the composer. He made many appearances as guest conductor in Europe and the United States, and in 1934 was invited to lead the New York Philharmonic.

From 1937 to 1939, Mr. Janssen was music director of the Baltimore Symphony. Thereafter he shifted his base to Los Angeles. He composed scores for many films.

He is survived by his wife, Christina Heintzmann Janssen of Stony Brook; a son, Werner Janssen Jr. of New York; two daughters, Alice Krelle of Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Jennifer Janssen of Stony Brook; two sisters, Dorothy Szlapka and Alice Knipe, both of New York; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

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