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Milton Kaye, 97; Gave Premiere of Shostakovich Piano Concerto

August 18, 2006|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — Milton Kaye, a pianist and arranger who introduced Dmitri Shostakovich's first concerto to a U.S. audience, toured war zones with violinist Jascha Heifetz and wrote theme music for the TV quiz show "Concentration," has died. He was 97.

Kaye died Monday at a New York hospital after battling pneumonia, said his wife of 60 years, actress Shannon Bolin.

He served as musical director for shows on all three major networks. His broadcasting credits included Arturo Toscanini's "NBC Symphony of the Air"; "The Bell Telephone Hour"; and the 1950s children's program "The Rootie Kazootie Show," for which he played the organ. He joined the popular 1960s game show "Concentration," for which he helped write theme music, in 1961.

But he also had an active concert career. Reviewing his first solo concert, in 1945, the New York Times wrote: "His conceptions were musical, in line with the best tradition and yet individual and independent."

He also introduced Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1 to the United States in the 1930s.

In 1944, Kaye accompanied Heifetz on an eight-week USO tour of war zones in North Africa and Italy. The New York Times reported that the two of them performed in theaters, opera houses, airplane hangars, on battleships and at the front lines, with Kaye playing a small olive-drab piano in a truck.

He declined to join Heifetz on a more permanent basis in California, but made some recordings with the violinist after the war.

Kaye, born Milton Katz, studied at City College of New York and the forerunner of the Juilliard School, and earned a doctorate at Columbia University.

His wife, who appeared as Meg in the original Broadway production of "Damn Yankees" and reprised her role in the film, is his only close survivor. A daughter died a decade ago.

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