[ Faculty ]

In memoriam: Otto-Werner Mueller, conductor

Mueller was Professor of Conducting at the Yale School of Music and music director of the Yale Philharmonia from 1973 to 1987
February 26, 2016
Otto-Werner Mueller conducts the Yale Philharmonia in Woolsey Hall

Otto-Werner Mueller conducts the Yale Philharmonia in Woolsey Hall

Otto-Werner Mueller, Professor of Conducting at the Yale School of Music and music director of the Yale Philharmonia from 1973 to 1987, passed away at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 25. He was 89.

In a statement to the Yale School of Music community, Dean Robert Blocker said, “Under Otto-Werner Mueller’s artistic direction in the 1970s and 80s, the Yale Philharmonia emerged as one of the nation’s leading University orchestras. His accomplishments with his orchestras and his talent for nurturing young conductors have influenced the careers and lives of his students at Yale, Juilliard, and Curtis – and indeed our musical landscape.”

Mueller was a commanding presence on and off the podium due to his physical stature—he stood at six feet, seven inches tall – as well as his probing intellect and uncompromising musical standards. In addition to attracting enthusiastic audiences in Woolsey Hall, Mueller and the Yale Philharmonia recorded regularly for NPR’s “Performance Today,” made frequent appearances at Carnegie and Tully halls in New York City, and served as the resident orchestra of the Evian (France) Music Festival for two seasons.

Widely regarded as the most important conducting pedagogue of the last 50 years, Mueller’s approach to conducting technique and score analysis attracted a generation of talented conductors from around the world to study at Yale. After leaving New Haven, he continued to teach at the Juilliard School in New York and at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he served on the faculty for 26 years until his retirement in 2012. Among his students are Alan Gilbert, Jahja Ling, Edward Cumming, Sarah Ioannides, Yongyan Hu, and Alasdair Neale, to name a few.

Born in Bensheim, Germany, in 1926, he emigrated to Canada in 1951, where he worked extensively for the CBC. Before coming to Yale, he founded the Victoria, B.C., Conservatory and taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Otto-Werner Mueller was pre-deceased by his first wife, Marga Burchart Mueller, a highly regarded singing teacher. He is survived by his wife, Virginia Allen, a distinguished conductor, educator, and arranger, and his three sons, Bernie, Michael, and Peter, and their families.

Photo by Eugene Cook

COMMENTS ( 3 )

This is sad news indeed. Maestro Mueller was a marvelous teacher. I carry his lessons within me even now, thirty years on. And he taught me how to teach myself, which is one of the very greatest gifts a teacher can bestow on a student. I will miss him.

March 2nd, 2016 | Charles Tucker

If there were a guild of conductors similar to that of the Meistersinger, it definitely would have lost its most meticulous craftsman…

May 2nd, 2016 | Jamie Sorensen, Sioux Falls

I had Otto as a conductor for 3 years in Victoria, BC. He was tough, but a thorough musician-dedicated to the service of the composer. I don’t think I ever worked with a better conductor. As an older teenager I also enjoyed the social whirl surrounding him and Marga! He was also one of those conductors who could get by in several languages. An impressive man!

June 10th, 2016 | Don Kissinger