Nathan Cole, associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has written a wonderful appreciation of his Curtis teacher Otto-Werner Mueller, who died at the weekend. Mueller was previously his parents’ teacher at Wisconsin-Madison and he came with a tough reputation.
“Who will be the one?” he would say, stopping the orchestra just before a giant ritardando. “Who will be the one? Who will be looking down at his music stand,” and here he would perform a grotesque imitation of a fiddler sawing away with head down, “raise your hand now so I can throw you out in advance!” I never saw a raised hand. But it was certainly not an idle threat, for I saw many people “thrown out”.
Mueller never discussed religion or faith with us, except his contempt for strict religious doctrine and the insincerity of many so-called “leaders”. I always believed that the music was spiritual nourishment enough for him. There was, however, a definite morality about his music-making and teaching. There were clearly right and wrong ways to play. Like Luther, Mueller seemed to believe in “original sin”: that we were all lousy musicians to start with, but through the grace of the best composers, we were saved. Of course, unlike Luther, Mueller demanded that we also constantly perform good works to earn our salvation. Otherwise we would be cast out… of rehearsal, at least.
Read the full lovely article on Nathan’s site, here.