Violinist Raymond Gniewek has Died, Aged 89
He was the longest serving concertmaster of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra during the latter half of the 20th century
Born in East Meadow, New York, in 1931, Gniewek was a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, studying with Andre de Ribaupierre and Joseph Knitzer. His other mentors included Albert Pratz and Raphael Bronstein.
Gniewek joined the Metropolitan Opera at the age of 25, serving as its orchestra’s concertmaster between 1957 and 2000. His 43-year tenure made him the longest serving concertmaster in the Met’s 138-year history.
His leadership played a big role in the transformation and elevation of the orchestra into the top ranks of the world’s operatic symphony ensembles.
Gniewek performed many famous solos such as the “Meditation” from Massenet's “Thais,” and the prelude of the final-act trio in Verdi's “I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata.”
While Gniewek retired from the Met Opera in 2000, his legacy continues to live on in its orchestra today.
“We played so many masterpieces together: Rosenkavalier, Ariadne, the Ring, Lohengrin, Tannhauser, Parsifal, Don Carlo, Aida, Onegin, Figaro, Don Giovanni, all the Puccini operas and on and on and on,” said Laura Hamilton, who recently retired as principal associate concertmaster of the Met orchestra.
“His mentorship and our close friendship were incredibly meaningful and important to me; he was like a musical father to me,” Hamilton continued. “His stamina was legendary and he loved his job, but he also knew how to relax in the off-season and pursue other interests.
“He was an artist with a formidable technique and a sweetly singing solo sound that I will never forget,” she said. “He was an amazing and inspiring leader, both in the heat of the action and as our section leader and concertmaster. He appreciated the skills of his section and often told us that he knew how much we contributed to the success of each performance. Rest In Peace, Ray.”
Gniewek is survived by his wife, daughter, stepson, sister, his grandchildren, and extended family.
Our condolences to Mr. Gniewek’s family, friends, and colleagues.
JULES MASSENET | MEDITATION FROM THAIS | RAYMOND GNIEWEK | MET OPERA ORCHESTRA | CARNEGIE HALL | 2000