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Julius Baker, Principal Flutist of Philharmonic, Dies at 87
Julius Baker in the late 1980's.
By ALLAN KOZINN
ulius Baker, the principal flutist of the New York Philharmonic for 18 years and the most prominent American flutist of his generation, died on Wednesday in Danbury, Conn. He was 87 and lived in Brewster, N.Y. Mr. Baker was known for the bright tone and rhythmic precision he brought to a repertory that ranged from Baroque works — he particularly favored Bach — to contemporary scores. As an orchestral player, he was principal flutist in several of the best orchestras in the United States. As a performer and a teacher, he was an institution among flutists. Faced with a comparatively small native repertory, he made transcriptions of works originally written for the violin, piano and other instruments, many of which have been taken up by other flutists. Quite a few famous players — among them Paula Robison, Jeffrey Khaner, Eugenia Zukerman, Gary Schocker and Jeanne Baxtresser — were among his students. When he retired from the New York Philharmonic in 1983, Mr. Baker said that he intended to devote himself to playing recitals programs and concertos, and his travels took him around the United States, as well as to Europe and Asia. But he also made a point of setting aside time to teach, both formally — at the Juilliard School, where he began teaching in 1954, and at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he joined the faculty in 1981 — and in master classes. He was teaching his 26th annual summer master class at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury when he became ill on Monday.Mr. Baker was born in Cleveland on Sept. 23, 1915. He began playing the flute because his father played it, although not professionally. He studied the instrument with William Kincaid at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and after his graduation in 1937, he returned to his hometown to join the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1941 he became principal flutist of the Pittsburgh Symphony, a position he held until 1943, when he joined the Columbia Broadcasting Symphony, in New York. He was principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony from 1951 to 1953. Mr. Baker also explored the Baroque repertory as a member of the Bach Aria Group, from 1946 to 1964, and his work with that ensemble led him to edit a collection of flute solos from Bach's cantatas, oratorios and Passions, which he published in 1972. He joined the New York Philharmonic in 1965 and performed with the orchestra through the directorships of Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez and Zubin Mehta. Among his concerto appearances with the orchestra were performances of the Mozart concertos during a United States tour in 1981, and accounts of Leonard Bernstein's "Halil" and the Nielsen Flute Concerto during his final season. Mr. Baker's many recordings include traversals of the complete Bach and Handel flute works and the Mozart Concertos. In recent years, the VAI label has issued a series of his concert recordings. He is survived by his wife, Ruth; two daughters, Muffy Baker of Brewster and Jennie Hendriksen of Hanson, Mass.; a son, Jonathan, of Atlanta; and a sister, Jessie Weber of Mohegan Lake, N.Y.
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The Face Of Bach
"Bach, c'est Bach, comme Dieu, c'est Dieu!" - Hector Berlioz