With heavy hearts we share the loss of George Neikrug who passed away yesterday at the age of 100.  George Neikrug was teaching at Boston University where he had been professor of cello for the past thirty years. The latest CD featuring Mr. Neikrug is “Great Moments in Cello Playing,” selected from eighty years of treasured recordings, recently released by Cello Classics. He gave master classes in Germany, Italy, Austria, Australia, Iceland, Hawaii, Canada, and extensively in the United States. He played solos with major symphonies all over the world.  In addition to the cello repertoire, his virtuosity enabled him to perform some of the most technically demanding works for the violin on the cello. His many performances of the Paganini Violin Concerto in D Major with the Sauret cadenza have amazed audiences and colleagues as well.

Born in New York, George Neikrug was a pupil of the legendary Emanuel Feuermann and was one of the only remaining students who was still concertizing.  In 1943, he met the well-known pedagogue D.C. Dounis, whose revolutionary approach to the problems of string playing and teaching influenced him to completely revamp his playing and create the unique style he has retained to this day. This association lasted for a period of fifteen years, and Neikrug felt such a debt to Dounis for all the knowledge and skills he had learned that he resolved to devote his life to teaching at schools, such as Boston University, and giving master classes all over the world.

Since Neikrug’s New York debut in 1947, he held principal positions with the Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. He was also principal cellist of the Paramount Pictures Recording Orchestra and the Columbia Recording Orchestra, which recorded the historic series of performances by Igor Stravinsky and Bruno Walter, who called Neikrug a “genuine musician and a real virtuoso of the cello.”

In 1960, Leopold Stokowski asked Neikrug to perform Bloch’s Schelomo with him and the NBC Symphony at Carnegie Hall, with a recording for United Artists to follow. After this performance, Stokowski sent him an autographed photo with the inscription “for George Neikrug’s Schelomo — unforgettable.” In 1979, Neikrug performed all six Bach solo suites in one concert at Lincoln Center. In an enthusiastic review of this concert, John Rockwell of The New York Times concluded, “there was a beauty that was almost painful. We wish Mr. Neikrug would play all the violin suites for us.”

Mr. Neikrug  appeared as a soloist with such conductors as Leonard Bernstein, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bruno Walter, Leopold Stokowski and Yehudi Menuhin, who stated, “I was most impressed with his profound and accurate understanding of his instrument, as well as string playing in general. He is a first-rate musician, and I cannot recommend him too highly.” His recording of Bloch’s “Schelomo” with Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air was recently re-released on the EMI label. In addition, Sony has recently released his recording of a duet by Mozart for cello, baritone and orchestra with George London, baritone, and the Columbia Symphony, conducted by Bruno Walter.

In 1962, Mr. Neikrug accepted a teaching position at the Hochschüle in Frankfurt, Germany, as a Fulbright Professor sponsored by Ernst Toch and Bruno Walter. He has held teaching positions at the Detmold Hochschule in Germany, Oberlin College, and the University of Texas at Austin before joining the faculty at Boston University School for the Arts in 1971. He was selected to receive the 1995 “Artist Teacher Award” from the American String Teachers Association. In 1996, he was invited by Janos Starker and the University of Indiana to receive the “Chevalier du Violoncelle” award for outstanding lifetime achievement on the cello. Many of his students are in major symphony orchestras all over the world, including some in principal positions and teaching at major universities.

The significant impact his presence has had on the lives of many artists elicits reflections and personal tributes.  These reflections and tributes will be featured below as we continue to receive them over the course of the next few days.

CelloBello would like to invite all former students and friends of Mr. Neikrug to contribute to this tribute.  Please send your reflections to our Blog Master at jamie@cellobello.org.

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From Paul Katz:

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles in the 50’s, I first heard of George Neikrug as a virtuoso phenomenon. Piatigorsky admired Neikrug for his brilliant technique and, because he was a disciple of D.C Dounis, thought he would also be  a fine teacher and suggested I study with him over the summer of 1962. (Unfortunately, Neikrug lived several hours away from me and I was never able to make the connection).  I heard Neikrug only once in recital and was blown away by his Boccherini A Major Sonata  – light, free, facile, fast.  The fact that I so clearly remember that concert 60 years later shows the impact it had on me! 

 

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From Antonio Lysy:

I had a strong connection with George in recent years as I have been playing on his Tononi cello for 30 plus years. I then had the privilege to be the first to record the Zeisl Concerto Grosso, which he had premiered on my cello, here in LA with the Philharmonic.
I also created a show around the history of my cello which incorporated a video of him playing my cello for the very last time.
His formidable virtuosity and love for the the cello lives on and through me daily, absorbed in the ancient pieces of wood that we shared for decades.