Former Karajan principal dies, at 86

Former Karajan principal dies, at 86


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2021

The cellist Wolfgang Boettcher, a principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic under Karajan and a noted soloist, has died at 86.

He was a founder of the international ensembles 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic and the Brandis Quartet. He wasl also a much sought-after teacher.



  • RW2013 says:

    Very sad.
    I accompanied many of his very inspiring lessons in the 80s and he generally knew the piano parts as throughly as the cello parts.
    (Pablo Casals is written here as Public Allies!)

  • Dominic Fyfe says:

    This is such sad news and one’s heart goes out to Gini, his wife, and the family. He leaves a wonderful legacy of students the world over – at one time almost the entire Berlin Philharmonic cello section studied with him – and a rich discography of recordings, not least with the Brandis Quartet but also his Bach Cello Suites and a disc of modern and contemporary pieces closely associated with him. I was his recording producer for many years and it’s impossible to imagine his mighty Goffriller falling silent. He was the most marvellous man and musician with an inexhaustible curiosity and a fund of memories stretching back to Hindemith, Henze, Shostakovich and beyond. And such a sense of humour: he did the best impression of Otto Klemperer. Latterly I took Sheku Kanneh-Mason to meet him and play the Shostakovich shortly before Sheku was due to record it. Over lunch Wolfgang vividly recalled the orchestra’s famous concerts in Soviet Russia when they played the 10th Symphony under Karajan. Shostakovich came on stage after and there’s a photograph where you see Wolfgang and Thomas Brandis on the front desks. He was one of the last of that great generation. Rest in peace.

  • Tom Pause says:

    A great man and outstanding cellist left us yesterday. Wolfgang died in his beloved Berlin in front of his house. As my godfather, he was a great role model for me from an early age, both humanly and musically. He always sent me postcards from his worldwide concert tours as a soloist and as a chamber musician – I have kept them all. And he was a gifted cello teacher and pedagogue and taught generations of young cellists. Until his last day he played the cello, played a Bach suite every day and was already planning concerts and master classes after Corona. Now his life has come full circle. The world is poorer by a great man and cellist.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Maestro Boettcher was a superb musician with a superb tone, as a front-desk player in the BPO, as part of the Brandis Quartet, and as a soloist.
    Farewell, Maestro.