From Development server
26 August 2008

Robert Bass, 55, Longtime Music Director and Conductor of New York's Collegiate Chorale, Has Died

Robert Bass
Robert Bass
© Brian Stanton 2008
Robert Bass, the longtime music director and conductor of the Collegiate Chorale, who for twenty-eight years led the ensemble in performances that encompassed a variety of choral and operatic works, has died.

Bass passed away on Monday morning of complications resulting from an ongoing battle with primary systemic amyloidosis, a rare disease in which fibrous proteins build up in the body's organs or tissue. He underwent both heart and stem cell transplants in 2007, and returned to conducting months after the surgeries.

Bass was born in New York City and studied conducting with Richard Westenburg - then the Chorale's music director - at Mannes College, the New School for Music. At the age of twenty-six, Bass succeeded Westenburg as the group's leader and made his Carnegie Hall debut. He went on to conduct the ensemble in a number of noteworthy performances at the venue, including the New York premiere of Richard Strauss's Friedenstag; 1997 performances of Schubert's Fierrabras, marking the Chorale's first collaboration with the Orchestra of St. Luke's; Respighi's La Fiamma; Luciano Berio's ending for Turandot; the American premiere of Dvořak's Dmitri; and Beethoven's cantatas Der glorreiche Augenblick and Auf die Erhebung Leopold des Zwieten zur Kaiserwürde, which were preserved on a recording featuring sopranos Deborah Voigt and Elizabeth Futral. During his tenure, Bass paced a number of acclaimed singers in their Carnegie Hall debuts, including Vinson Cole, David Daniels, Lauren Flanigan, Elizabeth Futral, Maria Guleghina, Hei-Kyung Hong, Salvatore Licitra, and Alessandra Marc.

Last season at Avery Fisher Hall, Bass led the Collegiate Chorale in the New York premiere of Leonard Bernstein's A White House Cantata as well as the United States premiere of Handel's Giove. Other recent presentations by the Collegiate Chorale under Bass's baton included Handel's Jupiter in Argos, Puccini's Le Villi, Weber's Oberon and Scott Joplin's Treemonisha. Last month, he led the Collegiate Chorale in performances in Israel, prior to the group embarking on a tour with the Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

In addition to his work with the Chorale, Bass conducted a number of operas in concert and staged presentations over the span of his career, including Lohengrin, Nabucco, Aida, Otello, Forza del Destino, Un Ballo in Maschera, Falstaff, La Gioconda, La Bohème and Fidelio. As a guest conductor, he made appearances with the New York City Opera, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Nebraska Chamber Orchestra and the Concert Association of Greater Miami. He made his European debut in Germany pacing Mahler's Second Symphony. At Carnegie Hall, he led choral works that included Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem, the Verdi, Mozart and Faure Requiems, Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, Rossini's Stabat Mater, Bach's Mass in B Minor, Bernstein's Mass, Handel's Messiah and Mendelssohn's Elijah.

Bass is survived by his wife, Juliana, his children, Miranda and Jonathan; his brother, Alan; and his parents, Janice and David.

A memorial service is to be held on Thursday, August 28, at Riverside Memorial Chapel on Seventy-Sixth Street in Manhattan.

More information can be found at the Collegiate Chorale and the OPERA NEWS Archives.

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