The South-African born artist was a highly influential pedagogue at such London institutions as the Royal College of Music and Guildhall School
Cellist and teacher Rhuna Martin has died at the age of 82. Early in her career, the South African-born artist was co-principal cellist at Sadler’s Wells Opera and a founding member of the Royal Northern Sinfonia, performing as sub-principal cellist. However, it was as a teacher at various institutions, including the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Junior Department and at the Royal Northern College of Music, that she made her name.
Martin won the Elizabeth Allen Scholarship for overseas study and a further scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London at the age of 20. In 1956 she began teaching at the College’s Junior Department, where she came across a young Julian Lloyd Webber. He later credited her as being ‘the first to open my ears to the cello’.
‘Rhuna Martin changed my views about the cello. First of all, she didn’t really talk about technique - she talked about music, and that fired my passion,’ Webber wrote in the Times Educational Supplement. ‘But the thing she did, which was very clever and way beyond her call of duty, was take me to hear some fine cellists. In her own time she would take me to the Royal Festival Hall.’
Martin was a great proponent of Alexander Technique, and introduced the method to Wells Cathedral School and the Purcell School after obtaining her qualification from The Constructive Teaching Centre in London in 1984. She continued to teach in West London until her death.
‘Her interest in the cello never wavered; she taught right up to
the end of her life,’ wrote Steven Isserlis in
The Guardian. ‘I saw her at many of my concerts and classes;
her laser-like attention was both flattering and challenging. It
was always so lovely to meet her after the event; her gentle warmth
and enthusiasm were infectious, and reassuring.’