Raymond Gniewek, 89, Met Orchestra’s Enduring Concertmaster, Dies

He had been Met concertmaster for almost a decade — and for some 1,700 performances — when he made his New York City recital debut in 1966 at Town Hall. Richard D. Freed, reviewing that performance in The Times, could barely contain his enthusiasm.

“Mr. Gniewek has everything that could be wanted in a violinist — impeccable intonation, a technique so secure that he is free to concentrate on problems of interpretation and a pronounced flair for particular style,” he wrote.

Early in his tenure, in 1958, Mr. Gniewek had to take the baton when the conductor Fausto Cleva fell ill during a performance of “Manon Lescaut.” That might have been a fantasy fulfilled for some concertmasters with conducting aspirations, but not for Mr. Gniewek.

“I’d rather play,” he told The Times in the 2000 interview. “I have strong feelings about sound, the actual act of playing of the instrument. It’s what I do best.”

Mr. Gniewek moved to Florida after retiring and lived in Naples at his death. His first marriage, to Doris Scott in the 1950s, ended in divorce, as did his marriage in 1960 to Lolita San Miguel. In addition to his daughter, who is from his first marriage, he is survived by his wife, the soprano Judith Blegen; a sister, Cecilia Brauer, who is also a musician; a stepson, Thomas Singher; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. Another daughter from his first marriage, Davi Loren, died in May.

In 2000, in Met Orchestra concerts that were to be among Mr. Gniewek’s last, Mr. Levine gave him a rare honor by having him stand out in front at the program’s end to play Massenet’s Meditation from “Thais,” as an encore. When he did so at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Willa J. Conrad of The Star-Ledger of Newark wrote, “It was pure eloquence and grace, and as tribute to a particular musician’s legacy to a normally invisible orchestra, provided a particularly poignant close.”


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