Samuel Krachmalnick, a prominent American conductor who taught at the University of Washington during the 1970s, died April 1 of a heart...

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Samuel Krachmalnick, a prominent American conductor who taught at the University of Washington during the 1970s, died April 1 of a heart attack in Burbank, Calif. He was 79.

The music director of Leonard Bernstein’s original production of “Candide,” Mr. Krachmalnick was born in St. Louis and gave his first piano recital at age 8. He earned scholarships to both the Eastman and Juilliard schools of Music, and after his studies at both schools, he won the inaugural Koussevitsky Memorial Prize in conducting at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.

Mr. Krachmalnick went on to serve as musical director and conductor for Marc Blitzstein’s “Reuben, Reuben” and Gordon Duffy’s “Happy Town,” as well as “Candide,” for which he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1957.

“He was an incredible conductor,” remembers UW emeritus faculty pianist Bela Siki, who worked with Mr. Krachmalnick. “I played twice with him, the second time in the new Meany Hall, and he was a real artist.”

Mr. Krachmalnick’s career included posts with the American Ballet Theater, the Symphony of the Air, the Boston Arts Festival, the Harkness Foundation and Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera National Company tours, the New York City Opera and the Stadttheater in Zürich (Switzerland). He appeared as a guest conductor at the Rome Opera, Zagreb Opera, and the opera companies of Genoa, Naples and Turin in Italy, and with the symphony orchestras of Zürich; Oslo, Norway; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Helsinki, Finland; Warsaw, Poland; Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Cleveland.

Mr. Krachmalnick won three Emmy Awards for his musical direction of Carlisle Floyd’s opera “Markheim” for PBS.

In 1971, he came to the University of Washington, where he was immediately “a big star,” Siki said.

His fellow conductor and UW emeritus professor Vilem Sokol said: “I had the greatest respect for Sam. He was very outstanding, a very good musician. Everything he conducted was very musical. He was not always a patient man, and he could be very insistent about things during orchestra rehearsals, but he got results.”

Siki recalled Mr. Krachmalnick as “extremely outspoken, even embarrassingly outspoken, but the students loved him.” He also was famous for his wholehearted appreciation of food, especially sweets.

As a faculty member in the UW’s School of Music, he had conducted the school’s symphony orchestra. He also was the musical director when the university hosted the Congress of Strings, the most prestigious summer training program for the nation’s young string players.

Former Seattle Times music critic Wayne Johnson, in a 1976 review, credited Mr. Krachmalnick with accomplishing “wonders” with the student orchestra. “Not only is he a conductor of skill and taste, but he is also clearly an effective disciplinarian and inspirational leader who regularly gets ensemble performances from the university symphony that are beyond the individual capacities of the orchestra’s members.”

In 1976, Mr. Krachmalnick and his wife, the soprano Gloria Lane (Krachmalnick), moved to California. He taught opera and orchestra, conducting at UCLA for 15 years, and continued to teach privately after his retirement.

In addition to his wife, to whom he had been married for 50 years, he is survived by a daughter, Magda Lane Krachmalnick; son Robert “Nick” Krachmalnick and his wife, Joyce; and a niece, Ronnie Wagner.

Private services were held in Los Angeles.

Seattle Times staff reporter Charles E. Brown contributed to this report.