Obituary: Walter Trampler

Walter Trampler, violist: born Munich 25 August 1915; four times married (one son, and one daughter deceased); died Port Joli, Nova Scotia 28 September 1997.

In 1994 the BBC honoured Walter Trampler with a memorable invitation concert at the Maida Vale Studios in London. Before an enraptured audience he performed an evening of 20th- century viola repertoire.

During a break in the performance I had the pleasure of interviewing him about his career, and he captivated us all with wonderful stories of his musical life. One in particular is worth recounting. Stravinsky (who for same strange reason used to refer to Trampler as El Capitano) always arrived at recording sessions with two bottles of whisky - a superior malt for himself, and an inferior brand that he handed out to the musicians after work.

Trampler was born in Munich in 1915. He was taught initially as a violinist by his father, and later attended the State Academy of Music in Munich until 1934. At the age of 17 he was appointed violist in the Strub Quartet, and a year later became principal violist with the German State Radio Orchestra in Berlin, during which time he played under the baton of Richard Strauss.

As Germany darkened under the threat of Nazism, Trampler (an ardent and outspoken anti-Fascist) emigrated to the United States in 1939 in sympathy with his Jewish colleagues. Shortly after his arrival he met Serge Koussevitzky, who appointed him to a position as violist (his first study in Germany) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

After a brief spell in the US Army, he began to establish himself in New York City as a leading chamber music performer, first with the New Music Quartet, and later as a founder member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Throughout this period he was a frequent guest artist with, among others, the Juilliard Quartet and the Budapest Quartet, with whom he made a number of recordings, including magnificent performances of both the Mozart and Brahms String Quintets.

Throughout his career he was a dedicated teacher, holding appointments at Juilliard, the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Yale, Boston University and the New England Conservatory in Boston. As recently as 1996 he taught at the Mannes College of Music in New York.

I knew Walter Trampler both professionally and as a great friend for more than 25 years. He was a musical inspiration and when in the mid- 1970s he commissioned me to write him a concerto, I had one of the finest exponents of contemporary viola music performing my work. He had a great commitment to contemporary music, and was willing to take on and master the most complex techniques. One of my earliest memories of his playing was his RCA recording of Luciano Berio's Chemins 2, a fiendishly difficult work (written specially for him) displaying a constant tremolo viola texture. I remember Trampler's jokingly remarking that he had to practise on a vibrating machine to get in training weeks before a performance.

Although we lived many miles apart, we met frequently in New York, where I was always greeted by him and his wife Ruth with more than one very large dry Martini (a Trampler speciality). He was a man of immense style, elegance and culture. This extended well beyond his musical activities, and could be seen in the surroundings of his beautiful Manhattan apartment, and in the renovated colonial church he transformed into a magnificent home in upstate New York.

With his death in his beloved Nova Scotia, the musical world has lost one of the last surviving links of a great European-American performing tradition. Thankfully he made many legendary recordings during his lifetime. For me, perhaps the greatest were the performances of the two late Brahms viola sonatas, which he recorded with Mieczyslaw Horszowski. It was playing of innate warmth and musicianship, a sound that will be with me for ever.

- Simon Bainbridge

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

£400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice