BAR HARBOR — Tibor Józef Pusztai, 69, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 10, 2016, in Portland, surrounded by loved ones. The cause of death was cardiac arrest. Born in Budapest, Hungary, on Dec. 23, 1946, to the late Marie A. Piff and the late Tibor G. Pusztai, he was forced to flee Hungary with his father in 1956 during the Communist invasion; he later became an American citizen. After years of living and working throughout North and South America, Europe and the Middle East, Tibor moved to Mount Desert Island in 2005, where he enjoyed cooking for family and friends and walking with his wife and two Boston terriers in Acadia National Park. An avid Red Sox fan, he watched every game he could. Tibor’s greatest love, joy and gifts to the world were through music.
A child prodigy, he began performing from an early age and went on to an illustrious career as a conductor/composer. As a violinist and violist, he performed with the Boston String Quartet, the Juilliard String Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony, and the Berkshire Music Center Orchestra. Having studied at the Julliard School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC), he was the winner of the coveted 1970 Koussevitsky Award in composition at Tanglewood (Berkshire) Music Center.
As conductor, Tibor directed numerous orchestras: the Ballet der Deutshche Oper Berlin, the Xantener Sommerfestsplielen, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, the American Ballet Theater, the Iranian National Ballet, the Hartford Chamber Orchestra, and the Hartford Ballet. Shortly before moving to MDI, Tibor’s work with several orchestras in Connecticut afforded many local classical musicians the opportunity to play music and perform for their communities. As music director he was always ready to premiere his colleagues’ original compositions and mentor student conductors and performers. His own pieces include “Cronus” and “Leaves,” amongst many others. Tibor had recorded for both the Columbia and Angel labels.
Above all, perhaps, was Tibor’s role as teacher, mentor, and inspiration to thousands of students over the years. He served on the faculties of Tanglewood, NEC, Ithaca College, Teheran University, the Hartford Conservancy, and most recently, Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he taught from 1994 until his death.
Tibor is survived by Ann Axtmann, his wife of 12 years; his son from a previous marriage, Tibor A. Pusztai; and his stepdaughter, Victoria G. Schunmann; his stepson, Thor A. Garcia, and wife, Maria Pacis; four step-grandchildren, and his dearly beloved extended family in Hungary also survive him. His family, friends, colleagues, and students will deeply miss Tibor’s warmth, fun-loving personality, and generosity. The family would like to thank all the many people who helped us through the last days of his life.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mount Desert.