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Tuesday, January 7, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Henry Siegl, Symphony Leader, Top Violinist

Seattle Times Music Critic

Henry Siegl, one of Seattle's most prominent violinists and a longtime concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, died yesterday morning of a stroke. He was 85.

He survived his wife, Eleanor, a noted educator and the founder of Bellevue's Little School, by only two weeks.

Former Seattle Symphony conductor Milton Katims, who brought Mr. Siegl to Seattle in 1956 to be his concertmaster, said that Siegl "immediately plunged into the entire musical life of Seattle. . . . He appeared several times as a soloist with the orchestra, and he conducted the orchestra for a recording on the Vox label (in which Katims was the viola soloist). He dedicated himself to teaching children about music. He will be missed by both musicians and the concert-going public."

"Henry always called us after every symphony concert when Milton was conducting," said Virginia Katims, a cellist and Milton Katims' wife. She said Mr. Siegl "wanted to go over things - how Milton felt about this tempo or that movement."

Born in Detroit, Mr. Siegl lived for a decade in New York before moving to Seattle. As a young boy, he learned how to play from Gypsy violinists in his Hungarian neighborhood. He got his formal training from the prestigious Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

Mr. Siegl's long career included all kinds of performances: hotel-salon chamber music, music halls, radio orchestras and chamber evenings among friends, in addition to membership in the Detroit Symphony (1935-46), the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra (for the year following) and the NBC Symphony under the direction of the legendary Arturo Toscanini.

Mr. Siegl played with the NBC Symphony for seven years, during which time he also served as concertmaster for George Balanchine's New York City Ballet.

It was in New York that he met Milton Katims, who was principal violist of the NBC Symphony and Toscanini's conducting protege. When Katims became music director of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, he brought along Mr. Siegl as his concertmaster. For 26 years, Mr. Siegl remained in that post, playing hundreds of subscription concerts, school programs, family concerts and other performances.

He also was a frequent soloist with the orchestra, as well as concertmaster for the Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet.

After his symphony days ended, Mr. Siegl continued playing as concertmaster for the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra and other community orchestras. He taught private violin students and larger groups through the annual summer Congress of Strings.

"My father was tireless about donating his services to young people, old people and community groups of all kinds," said his son Zev Siegl of Seattle.

"He took his music every place he could, until well after he was really able to do it. He loved to take out his violin for kids and show them how the instrument was made and played, and tell them about famous players and musicians of the past. He gave audiences plenty to think about."

Mr. Siegl also is survived by a daughter, Mascha Kushner of Seattle; son Simon Siegl of Washington, D.C.; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

No service was planned. A memorial concert is being planned for later this month.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests remembrances to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra Sustaining Fund or the Curtis Institute.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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