Flute world mourns a Philadelphia star

Flute world mourns a Philadelphia star


norman lebrecht

December 29, 2016

Fresh out of Curtis, Robert F Cole played flute in Ormandy’s Philadelphia Orchestra from 1949 to 1962.

He went on to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music and to play in the Madison Symphony.

He was a founder of the National Flute Association and its fifth president.

Robert F. Cole died on December 23, aged 93.


Full life story here from his grandson, Nathan Cole.



  • John Borstlap says:

    To compensate for the graveyard mood reigning in these pages, it should be noted that in 2016 in Madison (Indiana, US) a boy was born who in the future will be very successful as MD of the San Francisco Symphony; that in Xinxiang a great future violinist was born; that from an immigrant couple from Yazd (Iran) – currently living in Badajoz (Spain) – a healthy boy saw the daylight who will bring the Bradford Symphony to world renown; and that Cuban baby girl Anita will appear to be the greatest living composer of the 21st century.

    • Jaime Weisenblum says:

      Wonderful vision for the future!!
      Yes,Life and Death are cyclical and a source of hope for humanity.
      Very well said John!!
      Happy 2017 to all.

    • Daphnis176 says:

      1) It is a sincere and honorable custom to reflect on a person’s accomplishments at the thime of his/her passing, in order to cushion the transition from that person being physically alive to being alive simply in the memories of those who valued that former life.

      2) John, your dismissive condescention does a disservice to this life without in any way mitigating the fact that prople DO die and yet are worthy of being remembered, here and elsewhere. Stop admiring your own “wit,” extended at the expense of others.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Your interpretation of my comment is as gloomy as Norman’s regular obituaries, I never meant to contribute some ‘dismissive condescention’ on someone’s expense. I merely wanted to say something that pointed into the other direction…. where the impossibility of knowing allows for some mood lifting.

        I appreciate Norman’s attention to musician’s achievements, I read them all because many of them I never heard of, so it is interesting, albeit a bit sad to get to read about somebody a posteriori. But we can only look backwards while estimating what people did, not forwards about what people will do, and I think we should compensate for the grave yard perspective by having faith in the renewal of life, also if we cannot know what that will be, and try to contribute to that future.

        It is an instinctive reaction which many parents share.

  • NYMike says:

    The photo is reversed….

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    The photo shows Robert Cole, assistant principal flute, on the left, and John Krell, piccolo on the right. I’m not sure that the photo is reversed because the piccolo is on the correct side of Mr. Krell. Ormandy used a lot of woodwind doubling and if there was a piccolo part, the assistant principal (doubling first flute) usually sat at the end of the section. The PhilaOrch section of my youth (starting in 1959) was William Kincaid, Robert Cole, Kenton Terry (2nd flute), and John Krell (piccolo).

    Robert Cole was the grandfather of Nathan Cole, associate concertmaster of the LAPhil, and a frequent on-line presence at http://www.natesviolin.com/

    Robert Cole, flutist, teacher, and patriarch of a great musical family, requiescat in pace.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Your memory, Dean, never fails to amaze.

    • Nathan Cole says:

      Thank you for providing the details of this photo! I was fortunate to spend time with the Krells growing up as they had a vacation home in Door County, WI where my dad played at the Peninsula Music Festival for 30 years. We spent every summer up there! Hope to see you soon, perhaps when the orchestra goes to Europe again.

  • Daphnis176 says:

    Yes, I know, “time” not “thime” …

  • Nancy Shear says:

    Of course every death is a tragedy. But with musicians, especially those in orchestras like the Philadelphia, with its specific sound and great tradition, each death is the loss of a link in a chain. It’s inevitable, but the sound lives on in recordings and in our memories.

  • Susan says:

    Wow. Thank you for your impecable memories and intellectual thoughts. May we all be so fortunate as we age.