UW VIOLINIST MANOOGIAN DIES AT 71
By Jacob Stockinger The Capital Times
Virtuoso violinist and longtime University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Vartan Manoogian died Thursday in Spain. He was 71.
Manoogian was also the director of the annual Madeleine Island Chamber Music Festival, held each summer in the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior. He returned each summer to a festival in Spain where he taught and performed and frequently performed at festivals in Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
“We are shocked and devastated. This was such a surprise,” said John Schaffer, director of the UW School of Music, who has worked with Manoogian for 20 years. “Yesterday there was a pall over the whole school. Vartan was so alive and vibrant. He was such an elegant and kind man.”
According to Schaffer, the cause of death is still not known, although cardiac problems are suspected.
“Vartan was one of the most valuable members of the music faculty,” Schaffer said. “He is going to be seriously missed. I think that’s the sentiment all my colleagues feel. It’s a sudden loss, and he left such a legacy. To replace him and move on just won’t be possible. Whatever happens will have to be different.”
At the time of his death, Manoogian was working on a multiple-CD recording project of violin trios for students. He wrote a four-volume series of books on violin technique and created a video guide to orchestral bowing. He also recorded the complete solo sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach, which he performed together for the first time in 2000 in Madison.
Manoogian was known for his devotion to both the classical repertoire and new music, and he enjoyed unusual crossover performances, such as playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the UW Marching Band and doing improvisational performances with UW jazz saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell.
Manoogian was born in 1936 in Baghdad to Armenian parents, who had sought political asylum there. At age 16 he went to France to study at the National Conservatory in Paris, where he won top prizes and took master classes from composer and violinist George Enescu. He then came to America and studied under master violin teacher Ivan Galamian at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
He returned to Europe, where he took a post with the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland and then became the concertmaster of the renowned Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under famed conductor Ernest Ansermet.
Back in the United States, Manoogian taught at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts, where he also played in the Claremont String Quartet, and at Indiana University. In 1976 he won an Emmy for a performance of a Mozart violin concerto on educational television. Many prominent composers dedicated new works to him.
He came to the UW-Madison in 1980, where he performed solo, and often wth other faculty members. He quickly established a reputation for teaching top-ranking students who went on to major professional music careers.
Manoogian is survived by his wife of 40 years, artist Brigitte Manoogian, and their son, Avedis, a pianist in Minneapolis who often performed with his father.