The world has lost two of its greatest musicians. Both string players, they
were completely different.
played a solo viola recital when I was a student at the Aspen Music Festival. I was stunned by his virtuosity.
Later on, I had the privilege of collaborating with one of his students from the Manhattan School of Music for her master’s recital. We went to his studio on 34th St., across from Macy’s, to coach. My health club, New York Sports, had a branch in the same building.
The couch across the room from the piano had stuffed animals lined up across the back. The audience!
Nikki, the student, was concerned about one phrase in a Brahms sonata. She felt that she couldn’t play it well enough. With the recital two weeks away, she was upset. Her teacher said, “Nikki, do you think people who play in Carnegie Hall are playing their program for the first time? They play it 300 times all over the world before they play there!”
That was the first I’d heard that number!
Two accidents left him unable to play his instrument, so he focused on painting. Click here to see his work. He was also influential in starting a music festival in Oregon.
was much quieter than Emanuel Vardi. But in speaking with him and watching him teach, his vast experience was always evident. Inescapable, really, although he never promoted himself.
Although I didn’t know him well, he was a member of the Smith College faculty when I worked there as a staff accompanist. He would walk out on stage, find his seat in the student orchestra, and take care of his part. His playing was undemonstrative and incredibly expressive at the same time.
He played in chamber ensembles when I went to concerts at the Marlboro Music Festival. His demeanor there was identical to the one I had seen at Smith.
Last winter, I received a phone call from Philipp. As we hadn’t been in touch for several years due to my moving away, I practically dropped the phone! He invited me to work with one of his students who was auditioning for the Windham Orchestra High School Concerto Competition. The orchestra is based in Brattleboro, VT.
Of course I said “yes” immediately! Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with him? I felt honored.
It turned out that his student, a junior then, was excellent. Philipp attended every rehearsal, walking over to Smith from his nearby home.
I will always remember one particular rehearsal. Elena and I had begun rehearsing before Philipp was due to arrive, as we always did. Just after launching into her concerto movement, the practice room door opened. Philipp entered silently, removing his coat, hat, and scarf and hanging them on the door hook. Then he waited for an upbow, and snuck between Elena and the piano. (The practice rooms at Smith are small.) He found a seat on “my” side of the room.
Elena, who had been playing with her eyes closed, finished the piece, paused for a moment, then opened her eyes. She suddenly realized that she hadn’t heard Philipp come in. She shrieked, “How did you get in here?” And we all had a good laugh.
That scenario is a testament to their close relationship with each other, which was wonderful to witness.
After that, we went to Brattleboro. Elena won the competition!
The prize was a performance with the orchestra! Philipp graciously agreed to give me a ride, even coming to Amherst to pick me up. We talked on the way, of course. As we neared Brattleboro, we came to the turn that leads to Rudolf Serkin‘s grave. (Serkin died in 1991.) Philipp became sad and fell silent. Our destination was in the opposite direction. I know Philipp missed him a great deal.
I shall always be grateful for having had the opportunity to get to know Philipp, at least a little. His lifetime of experience made words almost unnecessary.
Click here for information about my E-book.
- Updated: In Memory of Philipp Naegele (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com)
- For Philipp Naegele by Alex Ross
- Philipp (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com)
- In Memory of Philipp Naegele (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com)
- Emanuel Vardi, a Champion of the Viola, Dies at 95 (nytimes.com)
- Emanuel Vardi, a champion of the viola, dies at 95 (seattletimes.nwsource.com)