Conductor and Composer James Yannatos Has Died

The beloved former director of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra served for almost half a century.

James Yannatos

James Yannatos, who served for 45 years as conductor of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO), died at age 82 on October 19; an obituary has appeared in the Boston Globe. A much-beloved musician who spent virtually his entire career at Harvard, Yannatos was also a composer.  The native New Yorker’s first instrument was the violin; Leonard Bernstein ’39, D.Mus. ’67, noticed his musicianship and helped direct him to the helm of the HRO, a job he took in 1964.

Yannatos was one of three Harvard conductors profiled in Harvard Magazine in 2002. In that article, he declared a kind of musician's credo: "If something doesn't sing, doesn't breathe, it's not real, not human." He retired in 2009, and was succeeded on the HRO podium by Federico Cortese.

A memorial tribute to Yannatos will be held at 3 p.m. on December 10 in Sanders Theatre.

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