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Conductor dies after collapsing during Bach performance

March 12, 2012 |  8:00 am

   A classical music conductor collapsed Friday during a performance of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" at a concert in Colorado. He later died, officials said. Vincent LaGuardia, 68, was the longtime conductor of the Arapahoe Philharmonic, a small classical group in Littleton, Colo.
A classical music conductor collapsed Friday during a performance of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" at a concert in Colorado. He later died, officials said.

Vincent LaGuardia, 68, was the longtime conductor of the Arapahoe Philharmonic, a small classical group in Littleton, Colo.

LaGuardia collapsed about two-thirds of the way through the Bach piece, a well-known organ composition, and members of the orchestra and audience attempted to help the conductor. He was taken to a hospital, where he died Friday night. Officials said the apparent cause of death was a heart attack.

LaGuardia's wife, Tracy, is a violinist with the orchestra. She told the Associated Press that her husband "was doing what he loved. ... I looked up and he leaned into the front stand and he fell onto his nose. ... He never came to."

Friday's concert took place at Mission Hills Church in Littleton. Tracy LaGuardia told the AP that her husband had suffered a massive heart attack in 1997, also during a concert, and that he had not been feeling well the week of the concert.

The orchestra is making plans for a farewell concert.

The annals of classical music contain a handful of incidents of conductors dying mid-performance. In 2001, Giuseppe Sinopoli suffered a fatal heart attack while leading a performance of "Aida" in Berlin.

Two conductors died during performances of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" -- Felix Mottl in 1911 and Joseph Keilberth in 1968.

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-- David Ng

Photo credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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