The former concertmaster of the New Philharmonia Orchestra was 84 years old


Violinist and conductor Carlos Villa

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Colombian violinist and conductor Carlos Villa died on 6 June at the age of 84. A concertmaster of the New Philharmonia Orchestra in the 1960s and 70s, he could also be heard playing on recordings by artists including the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones and Tony Bennett.

Born in 1939, Villa took up the piano before studying the violin. He recalled in 2015, in an interview at the Cartagena Music Festival: ‘When I was a child there were international festivals sponsored by the Proarte Musical Society. In the 1940s the best artists in the world came. For example, in La Heroica I learned of the existence of a violinist named Yehudi Menuhin.’ After graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music he went to Zurich to meet Menuhin, with whom he continued his studies.

In 1966 Otto Klemperer appointed Villa concertmaster of the New Philharmonia, a position he held for five years. It was during these years that he also befriended the Beatles, and his playing can be heard on Eleanor Rigby and A Day in the Life. In 1972 he was chosen to play the solos in The Great Waltz, MGM’s film about the life of Johann Strauss. In l973 he left London to become conductor–concertmaster of the Camerata Academica in Salzburg, with which he toured extensively.

In 1980 Villa returned to Colombia, where he was named artistic director of the Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra as well as visiting professor of violin and chamber music at the National Conservatory. In his later years he was particularly involved in training the youth groups attached to the Orquesta.


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