Lorne Munroe

Lorne Munroe. Cellist, teacher, b Winnipeg 24 Nov 1924. At three he took his first cello lessons on his father, Walter's, violin, to which his teacher, Dezsö Mahalek, had attached a 'leg,' and at 10 he won the senior cello class at the Manitoba (Winnipeg) Music Competition Festival.

Munroe, Lorne

Lorne Munroe. Cellist, teacher, b Winnipeg 24 Nov 1924. At three he took his first cello lessons on his father, Walter's, violin, to which his teacher, Dezsö Mahalek, had attached a 'leg,' and at 10 he won the senior cello class at the Manitoba (Winnipeg) Music Competition Festival. Sponsored by Arthur Benjamin, that year's adjudicator, he attended the RCM, London, 1937-9 on scholarship with Ivor James. In 1939 he gave a joint recital with Benjamin for the Young Men's Musical Club of Winnipeg. The program included Benjamin's Sonatina, written for the 14-year-old cellist the previous year. He completed his studies 1939-47 on scholarship at the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, with Felix Salmond, Orlando Cole, and, before and after service in World War II, as a protégé of Gregor Piatigorsky.

Lorne Munroe won the only Naumburg Award granted in 1949 and as a result made his formal New York recital debut 16 November at Town Hall, playing works of Haydn, Weber, Dvořák, and Fauré. He was a member 1949-50 of the Cleveland Orchestra and principal cello 1950-1 of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra before joining the Philadelphia Orchestra as principal cello in 1951. While with the latter he was director of a 15-player ensemble drawn from it, the Amerita String Orchestra, which performed in the USA and Europe under the sponsorship of the American-Italy Society of Philadelphia. Munroe became principal cello of the New York Philharmonic on the invitation of Leonard Bernstein in 1964 and continued in that position in 1991, appearing frequently as soloist with the orchestra in the concertos of Saint-Saëns, Elgar, Dvořák, Kabalevsky, Britten, etc. He has taught at Temple U, and at the Musical Academy in Philadelphia, and beginning in 1964 at the Juilliard School in New York. In 1991 he continued to teach at Juilliard, and also taught at the Manhatten School of Music. He has performed as concerto soloist or recitalist in Toronto (Dvořák Concerto, TS, 1 May 1970), Ottawa, Winnipeg (Schumann Concerto, 17 Nov 1978), and Vancouver and in major cities of Europe, Israel, and Japan.

After Munroe's performance in Strauss' Don Quixote, 20 Jan 1951 in Carnegie Hall with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Pierre Monteux, Virgil Thomson wrote in the Herald Tribune: 'Lorne Munroe, the cellist, impressed ... with his fine, sombre tone and his extraordinary ability to play in tune. I don't remember ever hearing this work read so enchantingly'; and Olin Downes, in the New York Times, wrote: 'Most prominent and commanding, of course, was Mr. Munroe. He has a noble, sonorous tone, with every possible gradation in it, and there was every characterization and sensitivity in his performance.'

See also Sheila Munroe (his sister) and Gilbert Munroe (his brother).


Further Reading

  • Thompson, Leslie. 'First chair takes talent and stamina,' Music, Oct 1980