December 17, 2010

NEC Mourns the Death of Violinist Eric Rosenblith, 90

Faculty for Nearly 40 Years, Longtime Chair of Strings

Founder of International Musical Arts Institute Festival in Fryeburg, ME

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of former faculty member and strings chair, Eric Rosenblith, who died Dec. 16— just five days after his 90th birthday.  He joined the Conservatory faculty in 1968 and taught both College and Preparatory students until his retirement in 2007; for 25 years he was chair of the strings faculty.  In 1996, he was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from NEC. Rosenblith, who had been hospitalized since Thanksgiving, died of complications of prostate cancer. 

Born in Vienna, Rosenblith received the Licence de Concert from the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris where he studied with Jacques Thibaud. His other violin teachers included Carl Flesch in London, and Bronislaw Huberman in New York. After a Paris debut at age 15 in 1936, he made his New York debut in Town Hall in 1941, concertized as a recitalist and soloist with symphony orchestras in the US, Europe and Israel, and served as concertmaster of the San Antonio and Indianapolis Symphony Orchestras.  An indefatigable organizer and player of chamber music, he performed in his own as well as the Jordan and Brandon String Quartets and the Fidelio Trio, and was a senior faculty member at the Yellow Barn Festival in its early years. In 1997, he founded the International Musical Arts Institute and Festival in Fryeburg, Maine, and was active in performance and teaching as recently as this summer.

An elegant and distinguished performer, Rosenblith premiered and recorded many new works by American composers including David Stock, George Crumb, Alan Lighty, and Lucia Dlugachevsky.

Before coming to NEC, the violinist taught at Butler University and Bennington College. In later years, he also taught at the Hartt School in Hartford, CT and the Longy School in Cambridge, where he had students enrolled this fall.

“I breathe, therefore I teach,” Rosenblith once said during an interview on the radio show, The Connection. His friend and frequent collaborator Victor Rosenbaum, a member of the NEC faculty, recalled that the violinist routinely “enrolled 25—30 students in his studio, was on campus every day and usually worked until 10 o’clock at night.” Rosenblith “had so much vigor and energy and love of music,” said Rosenbaum. “And he was dedicated to his students.”  In July at the IMAI, Rosenblith and Rosenbaum played the Schubert B-flat Trio together and “Eric was moving pianos around, teaching all day, going strong. Few of us realized he was as sick as he was in the last few weeks.”

Rosenblith didn’t limit his teaching to string players. Pianist Heng-Jin Park ’86, ’89 M.M. and a member of NEC’s resident Boston Trio, met him when she was 13 years old and studying in the NEC Preparatory School. “He was the one who persuaded me to attend Yellow Barn Music Festival in Putney, Vermont in the summer where he was the right hand person to David Wells, the founder of Yellow Barn,” Park recalled.  “At Yellow Barn, I was coached by him constantly for the six summers I attended as a student.  Later, I became a faculty member at Yellow Barn thanks to Mr. Rosenblith's support.  We started performing together as sonata partners about 16 years ago and recorded all the Brahms Sonatas together.”  It was Rosenblith “who encouraged me, after my six-year hiatus from playing the piano due to hand injuries and subsequent surgery, to return to the concert stage and come back to playing.  He always encouraged all of us who knew him to let the magic and beauty of music help us rise above all of our life troubles.”

Among Rosenblith’s former students are Mei-Ann Chen who is now Music Director of the Memphis Symphony; Mark Ptashne, who holds the Ludwig Chair of Molecular Biology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York; Joseph Sheer, longtime concertmaster of the Boston Pops; Ben Sayevich, a professor at Park University in Missouri; Melanie Kupchynsky, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Debra Fong, member of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and the faculty of Stanford University; Robert Eshbach; Maria Benotti, Tim Deighton; and Sebastian Ruth, who recently received a MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Besides playing and teaching, Rosenblith was also a published author. In 2000, he brought out a new translation and updated version of the influential violin pedagogy book, The Art of Violin Playing, Book I by Carl Flesch.  He traveled widely giving masterclasses and lectures based on the book.  In October, the Carl Fischer company published his, “Ah, You Play the Violin…”: Thoughts Along the Path to Musical Artistry, a distillation of his teaching wisdom.  
Rosenblith leaves his wife, Carol ’74 M.M., a soprano with whom he performed frequently, and their son Alan.

There will be a private funeral for family members. A memorial service is planned for spring 2011 with details to follow.

Photo by Steve Gilbert, Courtesy of Longy School of Music

For further information, check the NEC Website or call the NEC Concert Line at 617-585-1122.  NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. Pierce Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.
The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.
NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.
NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer

Public Relations Manager

New England Conservatory

290 Huntington Ave.

Boston, MA 02115