Dino Anagnost, a conductor who served as music director of The Little Orchestra Society since 1979, died in Manhattan on Thursday after a long illness. His death was confirmed by Joanne Bernstein-Cohen, the executive director of the New York-based orchestra.
Anagnost took over the directorship of the 60-member professional chamber orchestra after its founder, conductor Thomas Scherman, died in 1979. Under Anagnost’s direction, the ensemble presented an annual series of concerts at Alice Tully Hall, Zankel Hall and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New York, as well as two longstanding children's series, "Happy Concerts" and "Lolli-pops."
Anagnost was especially known for building creative and sometimes offbeat programs like "Music Takes Flight," an aviation-themed concert that ranged from Samuel Barber to Glenn Miller (co-produced with WQXR's Elliott Forrest); and “The Two Annas: Vivaldi's Muses,” which looked at the composer’s relationships with young women at an orphanage where he worked. Vivaldi was a longstanding interest and the Society presented an annual Vivaldi program for 20 years.
Born and raised in Manchester, N.H., Anagnost graduated from Boston University. He moved to New York to receive master's in conducting from the Juilliard School and a PhD in music from Columbia University.
A Greek-American with an ongoing interest in Greek music, Anagnost founded several choral groups in the 1980s including the Orpheon Chorale and the Metropolitan Singers/The Greek Choral Society, based at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He was also dean of music at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Cathedral of North and South America on East 74th Street.
Anagnost also had an interest in vocal music, leading operas by Mozart, Strauss, Bizet, Puccini and Vivaldi and the operettas of Sousa, Herbert, Strauss and Sullivan. He gave the Asian premieres of Menotti’s The Medium and Amelia Goes to the Ball; and Poulenc’s La Voix humaine for PBS's “Great Performances.”
In an age when many conductors move from post to post, the majority of Anagnost’s career was devoted to his work with The Little Orchestra Society, which was founded in 1957. Known as a gregarious personality and public speaker, Anagnost frequently spoke to audiences from the stage and narrated concerts.
Anagnost is survived by a brother, sister, sister-in-law and three nephews.
Bernstein-Cohen said the Society has lined up guest conductors to lead its remaining concerts this season, including four concerts this weekend. The orchestra plans a leadership search later this spring. “It’s a huge loss personally and professionally for the orchestra but it is and was his wish that the orchestra continue as his legacy for everyone in New York City,” said Bernstein-Cohen.