PHOTO COURTESY OF MEMPHIS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Alan Balter, the former Memphis Symphony Orchestra conductor, died Friday in a Philadelphia hospital of complications from an infection following lung surgery. He was 53.
According to published news reports, Balter had been a patient at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center for about four weeks, in connection with the second of two surgeries to remove a lesion from each lung.
Balter brought the symphony from a group of part-timers to a nationally recognized ensemble. His 14 years with the MSO saw the growth of the orchestra’s season, the creation of a core orchestra, and the broadening of the orchestra’s repertoire to include a variety of styles of music. Most Memphians will remember him as the conductor of the Sunset Symphony, the riverside concert that closes the Memphis in May International Festival each year.
He spent nearly 20 years playing in professional orchestras, including eight as principal clarinetist in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He began his conducting career in Atlanta and went on to conduct for the Baltimore and Akron symphony orchestras. In 1976 he won first prize in the MIN-ON International Concours for Conductors, one of the most prestigious awards in the field. National Public Radio once called him “one of three or four of the most important young conductors in America today.”
After his final performance in Memphis May 30th, Balter had hoped to pursue freelance opportunities as a conductor, teacher, and performer, and to spend more time with his family.
Hancock Funeral Home in Philadelphia is handling the services. – Lauren Mutter