Philly players salute violinist on 101st birthday

Philly players salute violinist on 101st birthday


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2021

The admirable Jerry Wigler was born in Detroit in 1920, got conscripted during the War, landed on the Normandy beaches at D-Day, survived the battle of the Ardennes and joined the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1951, playing until 2011. ‘After 60 years,’ he said, ‘I thought I would retire.’

He shared his battlefield memories last year on his centennial. And his confrontation with ex-Wehremacht soldier Wolfgang Sawallisch.

‘The first 100 years was tough,’ he concludes.

Musicians in the orchestra remembered his 101st last night.

Happy birthday, Jerry.



  • A.L. says:

    Sawallisch an ex-Wehrmacht’er? Who knew?

  • henry williams says:

    he must of been 90 and still playing in the philly

  • Vicki (Timpkins) Smith says:

    He was my violin teacher in the 1950’s. Thank you, Mr. Wigler!

  • John Kelly says:

    This is really wonderful. He is a great raconteur!! May his memory be a blessing! I know I’ve heard him play with the orchestra.

  • Happy Birthday to my dear old friend! Jerry, you are an inspiration! Still remember our first meeting so many years ago on Anshel Brusilow’s program “Adventures in Music.” I was a young girl performing the Revolutionary Etude and you were playing Haydn with your trio, and we have been friends ever since. I cherish our friendship and the great stories and wonderful memories. Looking forward to celebrating again with you soon!! Stay well dear friend!

  • GD says:

    The video is well worth the time.

  • Sol Siegel says:

    Very likely the last musician around to have performed on the same stage as Rachmaninov (who conducted his 2nd Symphony in Minneapolis, when Jerry was in their violin section). That would have been ca. 1942, just before Jerry was drafted – he moved on to Philly after the war. And he was called upon to play in Rachmaninov works as a substitute player after he was 90! Happy Birthday, Jerry!!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Maestro Wigler, I wish you all the best of health and happiness on your birthday, and for your second century!

  • Arthur Kaptainis says:

    Mr. Wigler was not only playing at 91 but touring. He was with the orchestra when it visited the Lanaudière Festival in Quebec in the summer of 2011, under Dutoit.

  • Nephron56 says:

    super spreader event

    • Greg Bottini says:

      What you saw in the video, Nephron56, was Jerry’s 100th birthday party, which happened a year ago, pre-Plague.
      Thanks for your concern, though. I’m glad that party didn’t happen this year!

  • Joseph Anderer says:

    I met you once or twice, through friends back in the 60’s or 70’s, then my wife and I went to a Philly Orchestra concert 10 or 12 years ago, and I noticed (and marveled) that you were still playing with them! And now, all I can do is bow down before you,especially knowing your history! You’re not merely one of us, you are far more than that, and I’m privileged to tell you so, because you are still ALIVE!!! Stay well and be happy, sir!

  • Eva Holma says:

    God Bless You Every day of Your Life and Thank You !

  • Jerry, Hearing you in this mesmerizing video, (with a voice that hasn’t changed one iota), tell your stories brought me back to my violin lessons with you in the 1960’s. I loved coming to your house in Swarthmore and being enveloped in your warm, caring teaching style and your wife’s delicious garlic laced cooking aromas. I loved chatting with you during intermission when the Orchestra would play in Carnegie Hall in your last few years with them. I would love to talk to you again. You can find my number by going to my website. Congratulations on escaping death in the war, and on staying in such great mental and physical shape. I am grateful to you for sharing your love for the violin and music with me in my formative years. Sending love…