Maurice Rosenthal, a French composer and conductor who was a student of Ravel and a vigorous champion of French composers from Offenbach to Messiaen, died on June 5 at his home in Paris. He was 98.
As a composer, Rosenthal was known for a flexible style that reflected its time, and therefore drew on everything from the traditions of the concert hall to operetta and jazz.
He wrote several operas and operettas, among them “Rayon des Soieries” (1928), “Les Bootleggers” (1932) and “Hop, Signor!” (1962) — as well as a series of colorful orchestral scores, numerous sacred choral works, some solo piano and chamber works and dozens of songs.
But he is best known for “Gaite Parisienne,” his ballet based on Offenbach.
Rosenthal was born in Paris on June 18, 1904, and began to study the violin at 9. He began his composition studies with Ravel in 1926, three years after his graduation from the Paris Conservatory. The two maintained a close friendship that lasted until Ravel’s death in 1937 and established Rosenthal as an important and insightful interpreter of his teacher’s music.
Ravel also encouraged him to conduct. From 1934 to 1939, he was associate conductor of the newly formed National Radio Orchestra of France. During World War II, Rosenthal, who had been born Jewish but converted to Catholicism, withdrew from public performance and joined the French resistance. After the war, he returned to French radio as chief conductor.
He made his first appearance in New York in 1946, when he led the New York Philharmonic in an all-French program. In 1949 he moved cross-country to be the music director for the Seattle Symphony until 1951. He also conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1980s.
Rosenthal is survived by his second wife, the soprano Claudine Verneuil, and two sons, Alain and Clement.