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OBITUARY : Lillian Fuchs

The death of Lillian Fuchs a few weeks before her 92nd birthday is a sad loss to chamber music. Of her many achievements, which included composition, perhaps the most important was that she belonged to that small body of musicians who believe that the viola can compete with the violin as a solo instrument. She owned a fine Gasparo de Sal viola which she handled with ease in spite of her small stature.

She was born in New York into a musical family and her brothers Joseph (violin) and Harry (cello) both became professional musicians with whom she made many appearances.

Her first instrument was the violin, which she studied with Louis Svecenski and Franz Kneisel at the New York Institute of Musical Art (now the Juilliard School), where she also studied composition with Percy Goetschius. She graduated in 1924, winning numerous prizes. She made a successful New York debut as a violinist in 1926 but had already been playing the viola - her real love - for a year as a member of the Perole String Quartet, with whom she stayed until the mid-1940s.

From this time onwards she earned a distinguished reputation as a viola soloist in the United States and Europe and in 1953 she was a soloist in the Casals Festival at Prades. She also regularly performed chamber music with her brothers and other celebrated musicians. Many composers dedicated works to her, including Jacques de Menasce, Quincy Porter, Vittorio Rieti and Bohuslav Martinu, who wrote the beautiful Madrigaly (1947) for her.

Although equally talented as a composer, the general public are less aware of this side of her accomplishments. She published 12 Caprices for solo viola (1950), Sonata Pastorale (1956) and a Jota and Caprice Fantastique for violin and piano. She also arranged Mozart's Violin Concerto in G (K216) for viola and provided it with cadenzas (1947) and was the first to perform and record Bach's six cello suites on the viola. She made some unique piano accompaniments for the Paganini caprices for violin, written for her brother Joseph.

Teaching was yet another of Fuchs's achievements. She taught at the Manhattan School of Music from 1962, Aspen Summer Institute in Colorado from 1964, and the Juilliard School from 1971. Over the years she was responsible for the training of many musicians now at the top of the profession; she claimed that her very first student on the viola was Isaac Stern, and much later, Pinchas Zukerman. But she said, "I don't take credit for anyone. You can help them, you can feed them, you can educate them, but what they do themselves is what finally counts."

Fuchs made many recordings, an outstanding example being the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante (K364) and Duos for Violin and Viola (K423) with her brother Joseph. Recently reissued on CD are two live performances of the Mozart with Casals conducting, and the String Divertimento with her brother and the cellist Paul Tortelier.

In 1932 Fuchs married Ludwig Stein, a businessman and amateur musician. They were together for 60 years until his death in 1992. Their twin daughters, Barbara Mallow (cello) and Carol Amado (violin) have followed in the family footsteps and both enjoy successful professional careers.

Lillian Fuchs was constantly praised for her flawless technique, her rich and expressive tone and her interpretation which revealed a creative and sensitive musical mind.

Margaret Campbell

Lillian Fuchs, violinist, violist, composer and teacher: born New York 18 November 1903; married 1932 Ludwig Stein (died 1992; two daughters); died Englewood, New Jersey 6 October 1995.