Maurice Edwards, Busy Figure in Theater and Music, Dies at 97

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He was artistic director of the Classic Theater from 1974 to 1989. The next year he became artistic director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, which he had been involved with for decades, first as assistant manager (when the group was known as the Brooklyn Philharmonia), then as manager and executive director. It was a period in which the orchestra, as The Times noted in 1989, “evolved from essentially a community ensemble to a highly visible part of New York’s musical life.”

As artistic director, Mr. Edwards was responsible for the planning of recordings and tours. He served until 1997. In 2006 he told the ensemble’s story in the book “How Music Grew in Brooklyn: A Biography of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra.”

He told his own story in “Revelatory Letters to Nina Cassian” (2011), an unusual memoir structured as a series of letters to Ms. Cassian, the exiled Romanian poet, whom he had married in 1998. The letters recounted episodes from his life and pondered their meaning. Eve Berliner, in her online magazine, called the book “a symphony of language and art and dance and music and literature.”

Maurice Edward Levine was born on Dec. 7, 1922, in Amasa, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. According to a notation in the archives of the New School, where he donated some papers, he changed his name when he joined the Actors’ Equity Association sometime after World War II because there was another actor with his name.

His father, Henry, was a trader in furs and scrap metal, and his mother, Sophia (Manhoff) Levine, was a homemaker.

Mr. Edwards grew up in Madison, Wis., and in the 1940s earned a bachelor’s degree at New York University and a master’s in comparative literature at Columbia University. In that same decade he served in the Army, earning a Bronze Star when he, as the citation put it, “displayed great ability and self-sacrificing devotion by moving under fire to secure assistance” when his billeting party came under German sniper fire in April 1945.

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