Ivry Gitlis, a Violinist Who Spanned Genres, Dies at 98

Ivry Gitlis, a Violinist Who Spanned Genres, Dies at 98
In this April 3 2004, Israeli violinist Ivry Gitlis, ambassador to the UNESCO, plays at the funeral ceremony of Oscar-winning British actor and play-writer, Sir Peter Ustinov, in the cathedral St. Pierre, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Martial Trezzini/Pool Photo via AP, File)
The Associated Press

PARIS—Ivry Gitlis, an acclaimed violinist who played with famed conductors, rock stars, and jazz bands around the world and worked to make classical music accessible to the masses, has died in Paris at 98.

France’s culture minister announced his death Thursday, hailing him as “a magnificent performer, a generous musician” who dedicated his life “to serving all kinds of music.” The cause of death and plans for funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

Recognizable in recent decades by his long white hair and distinctive caps and scarves, Gitlis began playing in the 1920s and performed into the 2010s. The Paris Philharmonic celebrated “one of the longest and most prolific careers in the history of music.”

Gitlis was born in Haifa in 1922, and sent to the Paris Conservatory at age 10 under the guidance of violinist Bronislaw Huberman, the ministry said. He continued training in Europe and the U.S., where he performed with leading conductors starting in the 1950s.

Gitlis performed with the Rolling Stones and jazz stars, appeared on French television shows and founded a French music festival in the 1970s where listeners ate and slept in a field while listening to music.

Among his many worldwide appearances, Gitlis was the first Israeli musician to perform in Soviet Russia, in 1963, according to Le Monde.

He held charity concerts in Japan after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami while many other performers canceled shows, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported, and played a violin made from wooden debris from the disaster.