The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, May 30, 2005  

Elsa Hilger

Elsa Hilger, 101, of Shelburne, Vt., formerly of Philadelphia:

[T]he first woman in the world, other than harpists, to be a permanent member of a major symphony orchestra, died May 17 . . . in Shelburne, Vt.

Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski hired her as a cellist in 1934. She never missed a performance -- except the day her son was born -- until retiring in 1969. And she retired only because of union rules. […]

A child prodigy born in Trautenau, Austria, and the youngest of 18 children (only four survived), Ms. Hilger learned to love music while listening to famed violin instructor Ottokar Sevcik give lessons to her sister.

Impressed by the 9-year-old’s attentiveness and the reach of her long fingers, Sevcik persuaded her parents to buy her a half-size cello. He became her first teacher. […]

At 12, she made her premiere performance with the Vienna Philharmonic […]

[In] 1934 . . . she got a call from Stokowski’s first wife, pianist Olga Samaroff, with whom Ms. Hilger was friends, inviting her to audition. After she played solo pieces on the Academy of Music stage for two hours, Stokowski said, “You’re in.” […]

Ms. Hilger married Willem Ezerman in 1935. […]

Donations may be made to Vermont Youth Orchestra Association, 223 Ethan Allen Ave., Colchester, Vt.[,] 05446.

[Ed.: Hyperlinks added.]

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