Muenzer, Edgar1

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Edgar Muenzer, a member of the violin section from 1956 until 2003. He died on July 22, 2016, at the age of 88, following a long illness.

Music was long the lifeblood of the Muenzer family. Edgar’s father, Hans, was concertmaster of the Chicago Theater Orchestra, the WGN Symphonietta, and head of the string department at the University of Iowa; his mother, Esther Payne, was a concert pianist and teacher. His brother Albert was professor of violin at the University of Houston and served as concertmaster of the Houston Grand Opera until his retirement; and his sister, Louise Bruyn, pursued modern dance and taught in Boston.

An alumnus of Lane Technical High School in Chicago and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Muenzer was a musician in the U.S. Air Force for nearly a decade. Following his military service, he was appointed by Fritz Reiner to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s second violin section in March 1956, moving to the first violin section in October of that year. In addition to previous solo work with orchestras and in recital, Muenzer was an active chamber musician as a member of the Chadamin Trio and the Chicago Symphony String Quartet. He was professor of violin at Northwestern University from 1970 until 1988 and concertmaster of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra from 1988 until 1994.

Serving under four music directors—Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim—Muenzer retired from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2003 after forty-seven years. In his retirement, he was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, serving for many years on the board of directors.

Muenzer, Edgar2

In 1994, Muenzer and his wife Nancy founded the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra. For nearly twenty years, he was music director, growing the ensemble into one of Illinois’s finest professional orchestras and featuring soloists that included CSO concertmasters Samuel Magad and Robert Chen, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, CSO principal cello John Sharp, CSO principal trumpet Adolph Herseth, and baritone William Warfield, among many others. Under Muenzer’s leadership, the ensemble received numerous awards, including Orchestra of the Year from the Illinois Council of Orchestras in 2000 and the Governor’s Hometown Award in 1998. In 2002, Muenzer won the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ Conductor of the Year Award, and in 2004, he and Nancy received a Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award. Following his retirement in March 2013, he passed the baton to his son Victor and became music director emeritus.

Edgar Muenzer is survived by his beloved wife, Nancy; three sons Victor, Peter, and James; and grandchildren Gregory and Gabriel. Services have been held.

Upon his retirement, Muenzer recalled one of his early experiences in the Orchestra: “One of my most memorable performances was shortly after I joined the Orchestra. We did a staged version of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, with Fritz Reiner conducting. It was as if I hit the ceiling, it was such a wonderful experience—not only to be able to play that music, but to hear it, right in the orchestra. That was the first of many high points, experiences that I will never forget.”

An obituary was posted by the Chicago Tribune on July 25, 2016.

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