Gifted cellist led
Honolulu Symphony
for 12 years

Hawaii concert-goers will remember Robert LaMarchina from his 12 years as music director of the Honolulu Symphony and the Hawaii Opera Theatre.

But LaMarchina, the symphony's music director from 1967 to 1978, also served as music director and conductor of the Metropolitan Opera National Company and guest conducting stints with the Fujiwara Opera of Japan, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Center Opera and numerous other companies.

Also a gifted cellist, New York native LaMarchina debuted at age 8 with the St. Louis Symphony.

The prodigy whom Arturo Toscanini called "My Little Angel" died from congestive heart failure Tuesday afternoon while sleeping in his Kaneohe home. He was 75.

Marilynne LaMarchina, his wife of 23 years, said her husband rested most of Tuesday after waking up and feeling ill. About sunset she went into the bedroom to check on him and he had died, she said.

The musician was still active in teaching cello and was especially excited about a 16-year-old female student who had gone from last in her cello class to No. 1.

"My goodness, Bobby was so proud of her," Marilynne said.

But the master cellist had no cello of his own after recently selling his to a friend in South Korea. When other Hawaii cellists found out, they contacted a local cello maker who two weeks ago gave LaMarchina an instrument of his own.

A recipient of a scholarship from the Paris Conservatoire de Musique, LaMarchina also studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Among his many other accomplishments is the honor of, at age 16, being the youngest member of the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. He later joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as solo cellist.

After an appointment as solo cellist with the Chicago Symphony, he received a Ford Grant for conductors and studied at Peabody Conservatory. LaMarchina has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony.

In 1979, LaMarchina was invited by the U.S. Department of State to conduct several Soviet orchestras.

He has also toured the mainland and Canada conducting various opera companies, and has conducted master's classes at the University of Indiana.

In addition to Marilynne, LaMarchina is survived by daughters Vita LaMarchina Corimbi Grasmick, Floria Kiscellus and Adriana LaMarchina; stepdaughter Lisa Robinson; and several brothers and sisters.

Services are 2 p.m. Sunday at Borthwick Mortuary in Honolulu with burial following in Kaneohe at a site yet to be determined.


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