Baird Hastings, eclectic music director, dies at 88
Baird Hastings, a conductor, music director, Mozart specialist and longtime Village resident, died May 16 at the age of 88.
He was a founder and director of the Mozart Festival Orchestra of New York City, whose affairs he administered from his Greenwich Ave. apartment. Much of his work on dance music and theater was done in collaboration with his wife, Louise Laurent, whom he married in France in 1945 and who died in 1997.
Born in New York City, he was the son of Dr. A. Baird Hastings, a distinguished biochemist, and Margaret Johnson Hastings. He earned a B.A. degree from Harvard in 1941 and entered the Army during World War II in 1942. A military intelligence sergeant, he married Laurent, a theatrical costume designer, in December 1945 shortly before his discharge in 1946.
While in the Army he studied at the Paris Conservatory and was granted an honorary diploma. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Paris in 1949 and 1950 and studied at the Tanglewood Music School in Massachusetts in 1957.
Hastings’s passion for Mozart was lifelong. He earned a diploma in conducting at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and in 1961 he founded the Mozart Festival Orchestra in New York. Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Wagner and Stravinsky were among his favorite composers.
With Laurent, he produced Gilbert and Sullivan and several dance theater programs. Lincoln Kirstein, a founder of the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, selected him to be founding editor of “Dance Index,” a research periodical.
Hastings was director of instrumental music at Trinity College in Hartford from 1965 to 1970 and taught at Juilliard and administered the school’s library from 1979 to 1985. He was the author of 400 articles and translations, wrote 10 books on music and edited seven others.
He had a passion for French language and culture and loved traveling and tennis.