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Antal Doráti

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Antal Doráti, KBE (April 9, 1906 – November 13, 1988) was a Jewish Hungarian-born conductor and composer who became a naturalized American citizen in 1947.[1]


Doráti was born in Budapest, where his father Alexander Doráti was a violinist with the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra and his mother Margit Kunwald was a piano teacher.

He studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner for composition and Béla Bartók for piano. He made his conducting debut in 1924 with the Budapest Royal Opera. He conducted the world premiere of Bartók's Viola Concerto (as completed by Tibor Serly) with the Minneapolis Symphony in 1949.

As well as composing original works, he compiled and arranged pieces by Johann Strauss II for the ballet Graduation Ball, as well as Jacques Offenbach's La Belle Hélène and Bluebeard, and Modest Mussorgsky's Fair at Sorotchinsk.

His autobiography, Notes of Seven Decades, was published in 1979. In 1983, Queen Elizabeth II made Doráti an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). This entitled him to use the post-nominal letters KBE, but not to style himself "Sir Antal Doráti".

Dorati died at the age of 82 in Gerzensee, Switzerland.


Doráti held posts as principal conductor of the following orchestras:

  • American Ballet Theatre orchestra (1941-1945).
  • Dallas Symphony Orchestra (1945-48), practically creating that orchestra from scratch
  • Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (1949-60)
  • BBC Symphony Orchestra (1963-66), which bid him a fond farewell playing his Symphony in Five Movements and his Madrigal Suite.
  • Stockholm Philharmonic (1966-70), with which he recorded his Symphony No. 1 and his Symphony No. 2, "Querela Pacis" on the BIS label. He took that orchestra on its first international tours.
  • National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. (1970-77), which he rescued from bankruptcy and a players' strike.
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1977-81)
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1975-79)


He made his first recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra for the recording label His Master's Voice, which later became RCA Records. Over the course of his career Doráti made over six hundred recordings.

He was the first conductor to record the complete symphonies of Joseph Haydn in other than a very limited-release edition, with the Philharmonia Hungarica: an orchestra composed of Hungarian musicians who fled the Soviet invasion of Hungary. He also recorded an unprecedented cycle of Haydn's operas.

Doráti became especially well-known for his recordings of Tchaikovsky's music. He was the first conductor to record all three of Tchaikovsky's ballets - Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker - complete. The albums were recorded in mono in 1954, for Mercury Records, with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra (later renamed the Minnesota Orchestra), as part of their famous "Living Presence" series. All three ballets were at first issued separately, but were later re-issued in a 6-LP set. Dorati never re-recorded Swan Lake, but he did make a stereo recording of The Sleeping Beauty (again complete) with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam for Philips Classics Records, and two complete recordings in stereo of "The Nutcracker", one with the London Symphony Orchestra (again for Mercury), and the other with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for Philips - all this within a span of about twenty-seven years. He also recorded all four of Tchaikovsky's orchestral suites with the New Philharmonia Orchestra, and he was the first conductor to make a recording of Tchaikovsky's "1812" Overture (featuring the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra) with real cannons, brass band, and church bells, first in mono in 1954 and then in stereo in 1958. Both the mono and stereo "1812" were certified Gold Records by the RIAA. He also recorded all six of Tchaikovsky's symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Other prominent composers in Doráti's recording career are Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky. His comprehensive series of Bartók's orchestral works for Mercury have been brought together on a 5-CD set.

He also made the first stereo recording of Léo Delibes' Coppélia, with the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra. An album set of Richard Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman is also among Doráti's more popular recordings.

In 1973 he conducted the world premiere recording of Max Bruch's Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, which was written in 1912 but only rediscovered in 1971.

He lived to make digital recordings, for English Decca Records (released in the U.S. on the London label), with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. One of these, the recording of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, received the coveted French award Grand Prix du Disque.

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Antal Doráti. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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