George Barati


Born: April 3, 1913; Györ, Hungary   Died: June 22, 1996  
This man's career has spanned more than 60 years of international activity as a cellist, conductor, and composer. Born in Hungary, he graduated from the Franz Liszt Conservatory of Music in Budapest in 1935. During this decade he was a member of the Budapest Concert Orchestra, performing under the direction of that era's most celebrated conductors. Barati was a founding member of the Pro Ideale Quartet, studying with Béla Bartók, and other Read more respected members of the faculty at the Liszt Conservatory. Barati was a precocious player and became first cellist with the Budapest Symphony and the Municipal Opera while he was still a student.

In 1938 Barati immigrated to the United States, settling in Princeton, NJ. He taught cello at Princeton University while engaging in a study of composition with avant-garde composer Roger Sessions from 1938 through 1943.

In 1946 Barati moved to San Francisco and became a member of the San Francisco Symphony during the tenure of conductor Pierre Monteux. During his west coast residency he was also a member of the California String Quartet and the founding conductor of the Barati Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco from 1948 to 1952.

Beginning in 1950 he also became music director of the Honolulu Symphony and Opera, a post he maintained through 1968. He was credited with taking this orchestra up several notches in professional status through his artistic leadership. He also became friendly with author James Michener during his stay in Hawaii and the two wound up collaborating. The author wrote the script for Barati's opera Noelani, which has yet to be performed. This was part of an increase in his activity as a composer during the '50s and '60s, but not every effort was this unrewarded in terms of being actually realized. Barati was able to enjoy excellent performances of at least three of his large-scale works, and his music was praised for their instrumental writing and subtle musical environments. Besides the influence of Bartók and Kodály, he made use of the twelve-tone method of Schoenberg and more interestingly, even brought in the exoticism of Polynesian culture, although this is not saying he writes in the manner of Martin Denny.

Barati's most famous composition is a long way from hula girls. It is a symphony entitled Chant of Darkness and was written in memory of his daughter Lorna, who died of cancer. He also had an extensive international conducting career that has included appearances with more than 85 orchestras on five continents. In 1968 Barati finally left the Hawaiian Islands for good to become executive director of the Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts in Saratoga, CA, including the position as conductor of the Villa Montalvo Chamber Orchestra. For 11 years beginning in 1971 he was music director of the Santa Cruz County Symphony. In addition to his conducting career, Barati served as a juror for the Mitropoulos Competition for Conductors from 1957 to 1970. His honors and awards include the doctor of music, Honoris Causa, from the University of Hawaii in 1955, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1965, the Ditson Award in 1962, and the Naumburg Award for Composition in 1959. Following his retirement he continued teaching at the Los Gatos-Saratoga Department of Community Education and Recreation. He died of head injuries sustained during a fall. Read less

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