After 47 years, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist hangs up his bow

After 47 years, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist hangs up his bow


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2011

At the end of their BBC Proms concert, conductor Charles Dutoit presented his bouquet to a member of the second violins, buried in the belly of the orchestra. Louis Lanza, 75, had decided to retire after almost half a century in the band, putting himself automatically into slipped disc‘s hall of fame as one of the longest serving orchestral players of all time.

Lanza was part of a Philly musical dynasty. His brother, Joe, joined the orchestra in 1958 and played until his death five years ago. “Joe was a very devoted musician,” said Louis Lanza. “He had accumulated 46 weeks of sick leave, but never took off unless he had a high fever. He loved playing, always taking music home to be prepared for rehearsal, and never took time off, even to see a doctor.” Several other family members worked as professional musicians.

Here’s his official orchestra biography:


A native Philadelphian, Louis Lanza studied with his uncle, Michael Pascuccio, and Frank Costanzo.  While in high school Mr. Lanza received a scholarship to attend the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, which later merged into the University of the Arts.  After graduating from high school, he received a four-year Board of Education Scholarship and entered the Juilliard School where he studied under Edouard Dethier, and took chamber music classes from Hans Lety, Robert Hoff, and Dorothy DeLay.

Following graduation from Juilliard, Mr. Lanza enlisted and served three years in the U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C., recording many radio broadcasts with popular singer Steve Lawrence.  After being honorably discharged from the Army, Mr. Lanza played for three years in the first violin section of the National Symphony and in 1964 was reunited with his late brother, Joseph, in the violin section of The Philadelphia Orchestra.  For many years, Mr. Lanza was principal second violin of the Reading Symphony, the Trenton Symphony, and the Amerita Chamber Orchestra.

Mr. Lanza made frequent solo appearances with his late wife, Joan Trombetta Lanza, a pianist and singer.  They later formed Lanza Family Presents, giving concerts in schools and elsewhere featuring Joan Lanza (piano and voice); their son, Lou, a popular and jazz singer (violin and voice); and daughter, Cara, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology (piano and voice).


  • Wonderful tribute! Having played with both the Lanza brothers in Philadelphia area orchestras during the time I studied and lived there, I never knew of two more amiable musicians than these brothers, whose love for music was so readily apparent. It always amazed me that, after putting in long hours with the orchestra, they had the energy to play with smaller orchestras and amateur groups such as the Orchestra Society. It is inspiring to see such longevity in such a demanding business! Bravo.

  • Maryann says:

    December 2, 20014

    Dear Louis,

    This is a voice of the past if you remember me from the early ’60s. I was a college student at Trinity College in Washington, D.C. when you were with the National Symphony. My student concert series seat was right up by the stage under the violin section. We met and you were so very kind and thoughtful to me and took me to my school prom. I’ve never forgotten you.

    How thrilled I was to learn of your illustrious career! You were at Juilliard in the ’50s with my friend Richard Syracuse (pianist) here at Ohio University. I wanted to try to find you to tell you that he just passed away tragically after a wonderful career, and his memorial service will be here in Athens, Ohio at Ohio University Inn on Sunday, December 14 at 3p.m. There will be a mass at my church and a concert later in the spring. I always liked to tell Richard that I had met you and that I was glad he remembered you at Juilliard.

    I’m delighted to know of your glorious, long career of bringing gorgeous music to so many.
    I dearly loved and admired your skill and passionate playing for a precious, brief time.
    Treasured Memories Forever

    With very best wishes for your health and happiness,
    Maryann Chase

    See info. on Richard on Hear and see him play the Eflat Nocturn by Chopin which he played for my party that night at O.U.Inn just before his tragic death. I was devastated! He has been a dear friend since ’66. I hope you remember him.When I first met him in ’66, he said he knew you at Juilliard which was a source of joy for me.

    I’d be so delighted to hear from you. Thank you for reading all this!