Werner Torkanowsky, conductor

October 22, 1992|By New York Times News Service

BAR HARBOR, Maine -- Werner Torkanowsky, a conductor, composer and violinist, died of cancer Tuesday at Mount Desert Hospital here.

He was 66 and lived in Hancock Point, Maine.

Since his conducting debut in 1954 when, as concertmaster for the Ballets Espagnoles, he stepped in for the ailing conductor, Mr. Torkanowsky had led nearly every major American orchestra, including the Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit Symphonies, and many European ensembles.

Mr. Torkanowsky was born in Germany in 1926. His parents immigrated to Palestine when he was 6.

He received his earliest musical training from his mother, who was a concert pianist.

In 1948, he moved to New York to study the violin with the well-known pedagogue Raphael Bronstein, and in the 1950s he studied conducting with Pierre Monteux.

As winner of the Naumburg Award in 1961, Mr. Torkanowsky made his first guest appearance with the New York Philharmonic, the orchestra with which he also made his first recording.

As an opera conductor, he was invited in 1961 by Gian Carlo Menotti, the founder of the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, to open the season with Samuel Barber's "Vanessa."

Among the opera companies he conducted are the New York City, Santa Fe and San Diego operas.

Mr. Torkanowsky was also the conductor for several ballet companies, including Jerome Robbins' Ballets U.S.A.

He was the music director and chief conductor of the New Orleans Philharmonic for 14 years, and since 1981 he had held that same title at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine.

Throughout his career, Mr. Torkanowsky continued his work as a composer and a violinist, appearing as a soloist and in chamber ensembles.

He is survived by his wife, Ragna Bruno; a son, David; two stepchildren; and two grandchildren.

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