I’m sad to say that I just received an email saying that Eddie Druzinsky passed away on Saturday. His obituary is pasted below.
Edward Druzinsky, longtime principal harpist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, died on Saturday, January 8th at the age of 86. Before joining the CSO, Mr. Druzinsky had been the principal harpist in the Pittsburgh Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. Mr. Druzinsky was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Solo Classical Performance for his 1969 performance of Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” with the CSO under Jean Martinon.
Mr. Druzinsky grew up in St. Louis. His parents, Louis and Nettie Druzinsky, were classical musicians. He studied piano and violin before taking up the harp at the age of 12. His mother, a pianist, also learned to play the harp at the same time. At the age of 16, with his childhood friend Bernard Goldberg, who went on to become the principal flutist in the Pittsburgh Symphony, he played the Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp with the St. Louis Symphony. That year he finished High School and went to the Curtis Institute for Music in Philadelphia to study with Carlos Salzédo. Among his fellow students at Curtis were Lorin Maazel and Leonard Bernstein.
Knowing that he would soon be drafted into the army, Mr. Druzinsky returned to St. Louis in 1942 and attended Washington University. Drafted in 1944, Mr. Druzinsky was sent to Stanford University to study engineering. When the Armed Forces Orchestra needed a harpist, Mr. Druzinsky was shipped across the country and spent the final year of the war at a base in Brooklyn, playing the harp on Armed Forces Radio. In the years after the war Mr. Druzinsky worked in New York where he played in the pit orchestras for many great Broadway shows, including “Brigadoon” and “South Pacific,” and any other gigs he could get. He played several of the Charlie Parker and Strings concerts and he can be heard on some of Frank Sinatra’s Columbia recordings from the time.
In the summer of 1950 Mr. Druzinsky toured the US as the 2nd harpist in the NBC Symphony under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. Later that year he became the principal harpist in Pittsburgh, and then moved to the Detroit Symphony under the direction of Paul Paray. During his time in Detroit he met and married Dorothy Siegel, a prominent children’s photographer. He and Dorothy spent the summer of 1954 living in California while Druzinsky played on Sunset Boulevard in a jazz band, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra. In 1957 Fritz Reiner invited him to join the Chicago Symphony, where he remained until he retired in 1997.
Although he was not well known to the general public, within the community of classical musicians harpists, conductors, and other instrumentalists he was considered to be not only a superb harpist but a consummate musician. Georg Solti called Druzinsky “without question, the finest harpist of his time.” When Igor Stravinsky came to Chicago in 1964 to conduct and record the orchestral version of his ballet “Orpheus,” a work that he completed in 1947, he told Druzinsky that he was the first harpist who played the harp part the way that he had heard it in his head when he wrote it. In 1976, Druzinsky performed the Ravel “Introduction and Allegro” and the Debussy “Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp” with Isaac Stern and Friends at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In addition to the “Introduction and Allegro,” CSO patrons will remember his many performances of the Debussy “Danses Sacrees et Profanes” (James Levine once told Druzinsky that he “owned” the Debussy Dances), Handel “Concerto for Harp” and the Mozart “Concerto for Flute and Harp” with principal flutist Donald Peck.