Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Violinist & Violist Philipp Otto Naegele [1928-2011]

On the night of January 30, 2011 after a short illness, Philipp Otto Naegele passed away peacefully in his sleep. A brilliant violinist and violist, Philipp was a guiding light in the classical music world and a dedicated and inspirational teacher and mentor.

He was my youngest daughter’s violin teacher for the past four years. Born in Stuttgart, Germany in 1928, his mom a physician and his father artist Reinhold Naegele. With the rise of Hitler in 1939, and 11 years old, he emigrated to England via Kindertransport, a rescue mission for primarily Jewish children that took place nine months before the war started. In 1940 he crossed the Atlantic to the U.S. by naval convoy - a pretty dangerous thing to do with Nazi U-Boats patrolling the Atlantic and those convoys being pretty easy pickings.

In the U.S. he settled in New York City where he went to school, eventually obtaining his doctorate in musicology from Princeton University. He also spent a graduate year on a Fullbright Fellowship at the Vienna Academy of Music studying violin with Franz Samohyl. Imagine going back to Europe after the war......

He then spent  eight years as violinist in the Cleveland Orchestra and the next 36 years as a faculty member in the Smith College music department, eventually becoming the William R. Kenan Professor of Music Emeritus at Smith. In 1950 he became involved with the founders of the Marlboro School and Festival (Vermont) where he began a participation as violinist and violist - and ultimately translator - that has endured till now.

My daughter spent an hour a week with Dr Naegele for the past four years. Extremely modest about his abilities and accomplishments, he was old school - a tough but caring teacher. Prior to Dr Naegele, she had been taking lessons from the teacher she started with at three years old. An excellent teacher but we felt it was time to move on. Dr Naegele treated her like an adult - an eye opener at first! If you were not prepared for your lesson he would let you know. There was one particularly busy week when she had not had a lot of time to practice. Five minutes into the lesson he sent her home, telling her to come back after she had practiced.  A good life lesson for an 11 year old - she was always prepared after that!

Thanks so much Dr Naegele, Eva and the rest of our family are really going to miss you.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Dr Naegele lived in Northampton, MA. For more information on his incredible life see http://www.philippnaegele.com (That's where I got the sketch above by pianist Amy J. Yan. Hope that is ok.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice obit, Gordon! Forwarded your blog post to the music librarian at Princeton.