Canada's classical music community is mourning the loss of Vladimir Orloff, famed cellist and former professor at U of T, who died on April 1 at the age of 90. The news was confirmed by Orloff's daughter, Marina Logie.
Born in Ukraine in 1928 and becoming a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1977, Orloff taught a whole generation of Canadian cellists at the Univeristy of Toronto, where he was hired in 1971 based solely on his growing international reputation and without an audition. Up to that time, he had been based in Vienna, teaching at the Vienna Academy, playing in the Vienna Philharmonic (1964-66) and performing as soloist with European orchestras, including the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the New Philharmonia Orchestra and Paris's ORTF.
Prior to that, Orloff had made his home in Bucharest, first as a student at the Bucharest Conservatory and then riding his reputation as first prize winner at the 1953 Bucharest International Competition.
Upon immigrating to Canada to take up his position at U of T, he performed as a soloist with most orchestras here — the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Victoria Symphony and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra. Orloff taught at U of T until 1991.
'Gorgeous, fluid sound'
"He was a true gentleman of music, as elegantly beautiful a person as he was a cellist," reflects Winona Zelenka, assistant principal cellist of the TSO, who studied with Orloff from 1979 to 1983.
"He introduced me to an expanded way of thinking about playing, starting with a technical regime that was systematic and rigorous, and studies that were violinistic in their difficulty," she continues. "To teach about musical ideas, he played a lot during my lessons, and his gorgeous, fluid sound with the fast, warm vibrato seemed so effortless that it was the lesson."
Zelenka remembers Orloff as "the kind of person who, when given a compliment, would wave it away as if embarrassed, perhaps with a small smile of annoyance. He taught me in the way of one friend convincing another of a good thing, even at my age; he made me feel supported and cherished as a musician, which I think is a special thing in a teacher. Later on, he insisted on us being friends and treated me as an equal, which felt such a privilege."
'Emphasized the music'
Ofra Harnoy, who was also an Orloff student, remembers him as "the first teacher who didn’t try to change my somewhat unusual technique and, instead, emphasized the music over all other aspects of playing the cello."
Harnoy explored "all the major warhorses of the cello repertoire" with Orloff. "I was honoured to have him as a teacher and, later on, as a friend and colleague," she says. "I know that he inspired cellists and other musicians everywhere and he will live on in all of our hearts.”
Orloff's discography spans the mid 1940s to the 1970s and features concertos by Elgar, Schumann, Brahms, Shostakovich, Haydn and Saint-Saëns with conductors including John Barbirolli, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Sergiu Comissiona and Eugene Goossens.