Maurice Rosenthal, 98, Composer and Conductor of Ravel, Dies

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, Mr. 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 "Gaîté Parisienne," his ballet based on Offenbach.

Mr. Rosenthal was born in Paris on June 18, 1904, and began to study the violin at 9. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1918, and during his student years he performed in cinema and music hall orchestras, experience that informed his own theater pieces. He began his composition studies with Ravel in 1926, three years after his graduation from the conservatory. The two maintained a close friendship that lasted until Ravel's death in 1937, and established Mr. Rosenthal as an important and insightful interpreter of his teacher's music. Ravel also encouraged him to conduct, and in 1928, Mr. Rosenthal made his debut conducting the Orchestre Pasdeloup. From 1934 to 1939, he was associate conductor of the newly formed National Radio Orchestra of France. During World War II, Mr. 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 conducting appearances in New York in 1946, when he led the New York Philharmonic in an all-French program. He transformed his memories of the visit into a picturesque six-movement orchestral suite, "Magic Manhattan," which was performed in 1950 by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. From 1949 to 1951 he was the music director of the Seattle Symphony. He conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1980's, and his repertory at the house included the "Parade" triple bill of works by Ravel, Satie and Poulenc, as well as Massenet's "Manon," Strauss's "Fledermaus" and Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites." He also led a Wagner's "Ring" cycle at the Seattle Opera in 1986.

His second wife, the soprano Claudine Verneuil, and two sons, Alain and Clément, survive Mr. Rosenthal.