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Fredell Lack, Admired Violinist and Teacher, Dies at 95

Ms. Berger stayed in Tulsa while her father recuperated and found she had little to do, so she gave Fredell violin lessons. Having begun studying the piano the year before, Fredell already knew how to read music.

She was enchanted. “I loved the sound of it, I loved the feel of it,” Ms. Lack said in an interview this year with Larry Wheeler, an associate professor at the University of Houston.

When she was 10 her family moved to Houston, where she studied with the concertmaster of the Houston Symphony, Josephine Boudreaux. A year later she made her debut as a soloist, with the Tulsa Symphony.

When she was 12, her mother took her to New York to study with Louis Persinger, who had taught the prodigies Ruggiero Ricci and Yehudi Menuhin in the 1930s. She later earned a full scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York.

Ms. Lack won several competitions, and in 1951 she received the bronze Prize of Liege medallion from Queen Elisabeth of Belgium at the International Violin Competition. She made her New York recital debut at Town Hall in 1943 and played there frequently with her longtime accompanist, Albert Hirsh.

Ms. Lack was the first concertmaster of the Little Orchestra Society in New York and went on to make many recordings, including one of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, Op. 64, with the New York Philharmonic.

Approaching 30, Ms. Lack felt her career had hit a wall: Critics had begun writing that her violin was not powerful enough for playing with big orchestras. She decided she needed to graduate to a top-line instrument.

To help her find one, her father met her in New York and took her to a violin dealer, who laid out his finest instruments on a table and blindfolded her. “Now try them,” he said.

“I played five notes on this violin and said, ‘Oh, this is it.’ It has such a rich, dark sound,” she told the University of Houston Magazine in 2012.

The instrument was a Stradivarius, made in 1727, and cost $38,000. (She sold it for $5 million a few years ago.) With it, she said, she could convey the contemplative melancholy or intoxicating joy she felt each time she played.

“To me, it was like the human voice — like my voice,” she said. “When I play, it’s like I’m singing.”

The critics began to take notice.

Violin Sonata No. 3, H. 303: III. Scherzo Video by Fredell Lack – Topic

“Miss Lack has a firm, full-bodied technique that time has not eroded,” John Rockwell wrote in The Times in 1986. “She also has solid, hearty musical instincts that, along with Mr. Hirsh’s solid, deferential accompaniment, lend her interpretations a satisfying sense of command.”

Her long career as a musician evolved into a long career as an educator. She was a founding faculty member of the University of Houston’s school of music in 1959 and taught there for more than 50 years.

The school’s resources were so limited at first that she gave lessons in a women’s bathroom. Finding Houston musically undernourished as well, she helped create the nonprofit group Young Audiences and formed the Lyric Art Quartet in that city.

Her reputation as an accomplished musician was a big factor in the music school’s growth. Among the students who sought her out for instruction was Frank Huang, who began studying with her when he was 10. He is now the concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic.

“She would never get mad or kick you out of your lesson if you didn’t practice,” Mr. Huang said in a telephone interview, “but she would be very demanding at the same time.”


Ms. Lack, center, in February with, from left, Kate Moore, a former student; Ardis Eichhorn, Ms. Lack’s daughter; and two more former students, Karen Wilkson and Steve Rochen.

Ms. Lack was born in Tulsa on Feb. 19, 1922, the eldest of three children. Her father, Abraham Isaac Lack, ran a chain of auto-supply stores and helped found Congregation Emanu El, a Reform synagogue in Houston. Her mother, the former Sarah Stillman, worked as an accountant in the family business.

Ms. Lack’s husband of 68 years, Dr. Ralph Eichhorn, who was chief of gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, died in 2014.

In addition to her daughter, Ms. Lack is survived by a son, Dr. Eric Eichhorn; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Ms. Eichorn recalled that when she and her brother were young and their mother was touring overseas, they yearned for her to come home.

“I was often lonely for her and wanted more of her,” she said. “I would listen to her recording of the Mendelssohn concerto over and over again when she was gone, because I could feel her in the music. I could feel her love and her warmth inside the music.”

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