Music Director of the Oregon Symphony since 1980, James DePreist just completed four years as Music Director of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic. Born in Philadelphia in 1936, he studied composition with Vincent Persichetti at the Philadelphia Conservatory and obtained Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1962, while on a State Department tour in Bangkok, he contracted polio but recovered sufficiently to win a first prize in the 1964 Dimitri Mitropoulos International Conducting Competition. He was selected by Leonard Bernstein to be an assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic for the 1965-66 season.
DePreist made his highly acclaimed European debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic in 1969. In the same year he was awarded a Martha Baird Rockefeller grant. Concerts soon followed in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Belgium, and Italy. In 1971 Antal Dorati chose DePreist to become his Associate Conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In 1976 DePreist became Music Director of the Quebec Symphony, Canada’s oldest orchestra, where he remained until 1983. In 1980 he was named Music Director and Conductor of the Oregon Symphony, which two years later he guided into the ranks of the major United States orchestras. He recently extended his contract with the Oregon Symphony through the 2004-2005 season.
Ovation critic Paul Turok wrote of Bravura, DePreist’s first recording with the Oregon Symphony: “In less than a decade, James DePreist has built an orchestra of regional significance into one worthy of national, and perhaps even international, attention...” This widely acclaimed disc was followed by five others, which have clearly established the Oregon Symphony and James DePreist as major additions to the recording arena.
Much in demand as a guest conductor, DePreist pursues a distinguished career in America and abroad, regularly performing with the major American orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. In 1997 he made an impressive subscription concert debut with the Boston Symphony and was immediately re-engaged to appear with the Boston Symphony at the 1998 Tanglewood Music Festival and then to conduct the orchestra for the Festival’s closing concerts in the summer of 1999. He also conducted the opening concert for the 50th Anniversary season of the Aspen Music Festival and 1999’s opening Wolftrap concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Abroad recent and future engagements include appearances in Amsterdam, Tokyo, Helsinki, Prague, Vienna, England, France and Australia. In the spring of 1998 he led the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic on a second United States tour.
From 1991 to 1994 DePreist recorded extensively in Sweden for BIS with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the Malmö Symphony, where he served as Chief Conductor. In addition, he made an internationally acclaimed series of recordings of Shostakovich symphonies with the Helsinki Philharmonic. In 1994 he undertook a series of recordings with the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic. His recorded repertoire now includes 35 compact discs, with at least three new discs scheduled for release within the next two years.
James DePreist has been awarded 13 honorary doctorates and is the author of two books of poetry. He is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and is a recipient of the Insignia of Commander of the Order of the Lion of Finland and the Officer of the Order of Cultural Merit of Monaco. DePreist is the nephew of the legendary contralto Marian Anderson.
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